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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Category Archives: 8-8.5/10

The Babadook (2014)

Even more reasons to stop reading books and to pick up a screen instead.

Middle-aged, single Amelia (Essie Davis) is the mother to six-year-old Sam (Noah Wiseman) and let’s just say that they don’t necessarily have the best relationship together. Sam is a strange kid who communicates with an imaginary ghost that he swears is going to kill him one day, so in order to prep, he builds weapons to fend him off. Also, to add insult to injury, Sam acts out at school and practically every other public-function, which as a result, makes Amelia look bad in hindsight. She understands this and doesn’t like it, but she’s Sam’s mother and wouldn’t you know it, still loves and supports him; even if he is a bit of a weirdo. But everything gets weirder, and a whole scarier, for the mother-son combo when they open up and read a pop-up children’s book called, “the Babadook”. Apparently, once opened, this mysterious, deadly creature takes over whoever reads it and terrorizes every aspect of their life. This scares Amelia and Sam, but they might be able to stand up to the ‘dook, so long so as they still love one another and have each other’s back.

Horror movies, for the most part, aren’t my cup-of-tea. That is, when they aren’t done right. When they’re done right, they’re the most terrific piece of fun that I could ever have and gives me plenty of hope for the rest of the horror movie world, and wish that plenty of other horror creators see this and eventually follow suit.

No Damien, but he'll do.

No Damien, but he’ll do.

And in the case of the Babadook, this is exactly the same case. While it may not entirely be the most original, game-changing horror flick since the days of the Blair Witch, it still does something right in that it gives us a compelling premise, with even more compelling characters to make all the scares hit harder than they probably should. Sometimes with horror movies, the scares may be there and make you jump out of your cushion-seat, but they aren’t because you’re actually fearful for anybody in the film; you’re more or less just scared of getting spooked yourself. Sure, the characters in the movie may be the ones who are supposed to be the scared the most, but who they really are, are just stand-ins for you, the audience-member who shelled out nearly eleven dollars for this piece of fine entertainment.

What I’m trying to get across by saying this is that while most horror movies understand what it takes to be considered “scary”, they don’t know what it takes to be considered “terrifying”, and dare I say it, “emotionally-draining”. The ones that are considered the former, give us characters that are just there to service something that resembles a plot and the numerous pop-up scares, whereas with the former options, we get movies that have actually real, true-to-life, compelling characters that we not only care for in this time of need, but want to see live and defeat whatever mysterious presence they may be facing off against. The Babadook understands this and are able to actually combine the two elements of being scary and having rich, well-written characters, to wondrous results.

The movie may not be perfect, but hey, this is the horror-genre we’re talking about here! You take what you can get!

Anyway, like I was saying, a lot of the credit for this movie working as well as it does has to go to first-time writer/director Jennifer Kent, who seems like she definitely has a fine eye for scary detail, and an even better head-space for what it takes to make certain characters understandable and interesting. In the case of the mother-son combo that is Amelia and Sam, there’s something intriguing in that we can tell Amelia is clearly and utterly depressed with all that life has given her, and that’s mostly due to Sam and his habit for constantly driving her up the wall and back again. Every person that has ever raised a child will tell ya, being a parent is hard, and it’s even more challenging when you’re doing it all by yourself (which is what Amelia is doing here because of her husband’s death which, ironically enough, was at the same time Sam was being born), but this case, seems even more excruciating.

Sam, the way he’s written at least, is a every parent’s worst nightmare: He’s needy, over-bearing, loud, full of piss and vinegar, and doesn’t seem to know how to act or behave when he’s around others that aren’t his mother. Other people see this and automatically, it’s Amelia who’s the blame which not only has he grow deeper and deeper into her fit of depression, but have her hold a grudge against Sam. It’s not that she hates her son, she’s just downright had it up to here with the way he acts and would probably be a lot happier if it all went away. Once again, not saying that she hates her son and would want him killed, but to be taken off of her hands for maybe a week, or two, or maybe a month, would probably do her some good.

And this is the exact idea that Kent plays into and it allows for the tension to rack-up beyond belief. We don’t really know if the ‘dook is a real monster/ghost, or if Amelia is just imagining all of this because of her bout with depression that borderlines on insanity, but whatever it may be, it’s terrifying. Not because of the jump-scares that Kent sometimes manipulatively utilizes, but because we actually grow to like and care for both Sam and Amelia, and for anything bad to happen to either of them would be incredibly upsetting. Even worse though, is if something bad happened to the one because of the other.

I think we've all seen scarier images in actual, real life books.

I think we’ve all seen scarier images in actual, real life books.

Not only would that be beyond the limits of disturbing, but even more terrifying because travesties like that happens in real life.

But most of the credit for why Sam and Amelia are so worthy of our attention-span in the first place is because of both Noah Wiseman and Essie Davis. Davis is exceptionally great here as the sad-sack Amelia who seems to have some amount of charm in her personality, but hasn’t been able to utilize it for so long, that she’s just a mute to the rest of the world around her. It seems like a one-note performance, but Davis finds certain shadings to Amelia to make her seem like a woman who, at one point in her life, was happy, hopeful and free. While that may seem to be gone for now, it’s clear to us that she may be able to get back to that point in her life, and still be a mother to Sam. It’s just a matter of how and whether or not somebody has to get hurt in the process.

However, the most impressive one of the two here is Wiseman, who plays the typical “annoying-kid” role, but is so good at it, that you’ll believe he’s genuinely like this. But what both Wiseman and, to a further extant, Kent do with this character is show him as exactly he is: A six-year-old boy who clearly has some growing-up problems, but is doing just that, growing up and trying to make sense of this insane, crazy world that’s around him. Once again, his character’s existence is a downtrodden one, but Wiseman allows us to see him certain lights that makes it seem like, if all turns out well for the both of them, that he could one day be considered, you know, “normal”.

Whatever the hell that means anyway.

Consensus: Not as scary as much as its just upsetting, the Babadook presents a generic monster, but gives us two characters that are compelling, interesting, and sympathetic in their own rights, even without all of the terror happening around them.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yeah, that's smart.

Yeah, that’s smart.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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Naked (1993)

NakedposterMaybe all Gen-X’ers appreciated a little reading of Jane Austen on the side of constant yelling and drug use. Just maybe.

After sexually assaulting a woman back in his homeland, Johnny (David Thewlis) runs for the hills. And by “the hills”, I mean, Manchester where he’s going to try and find his ex-girlfriend for no real reason other than to bug her and cause some extra havoc along the way. However, the word “havoc” doesn’t exactly fit Johnny’s persona as he’s the type of dude that is a lot smarter and knowing than you might believe after the first 20 seconds of the movie, or how he dresses and walks around aimlessly. As Johnny’s “adventure” continues on, we begin to get to know more and more about him, his thoughts, his feelings, and just what the hell he even feels like doing with his life; probably more than I ever expected to stick around for.

Reviewing this movie is going to be a bit of a challenge because I have yet to make up my mind as to whether this was a dark comedy with dramatic elements, or a full-on drama, that just so happened to make me laugh. I’m still racking my brain around which either one this flick is and what Mike Leigh was trying to go for. That’s more of a knock against me than his actual directing because some of the things that this character Johnny says, had me laughing because I simply “got it”. Others, however, may not think so much, which is where the confusion of what genre this movie is from comes in.

"Should I hit it, or should I not? Aw, fuck it! I'm a man in his prime!"

“To hit it, or not to hit it? That begs the real question.”

However, finding a genre out for this sort of movie doesn’t matter because the flick is still good, well-written, and interesting to watch, even if you don’t think so until you read all of the positive buzz about it. See, going into this movie, I knew it was going to be good, and coming from the sturdy-hands of Leigh, I knew it was going to be all talky and feel all natural. I love that about Leigh’s approach, as it’s so rare that he ever steps in front of the story and the characters that inhabit it; he just lets it be told, the way it was meant to be told, and he doesn’t ever get in the way. Good man, because I know plenty of directors that probably would have had enough with all of this improv, and at least put his foot down, stating “enough is enough”. None really come to mind, but they’re out there and Leigh isn’t one of them.

No, no, no. Leigh is a special type of director that makes movies, not just for the sake of making movies, but to bring out emotions and feelings within a society that may, at times, seem to be falling apart from the inside out, without them even knowing it themselves. That’s the idea that this flick taps into very well; the idea that life in the underbelly of post-conservative England, especially during the 90’s, wasn’t pleasant, and was filled with just as many contradictions and grimness than you can shake a stick at. People were constantly on the streets, out of jobs, sad, and hopeless for what was to come. They were just waiting to see when the world would end, just so they could remove the sad existence of life they have on the planet.

It’s a dark mind-set to have placed, but it’s one that Leigh attacks with full force and never loses sight of. Sure, his movie may seem to meander at times because all it is is a loner having a bunch of random bits of conversations with people he doesn’t really know or want to know, but it’s very intriguing to actually have to hear and listen to what these people have to say, and how they respond to the thoughts and ideas of what a normal, average young adult would be thinking about and contemplating around the same time. Of course Leigh knows what he’s trying to say, but the people he associates himself with don’t, and he tries to show them in any way that he possibly can. At all costs really.

This also actually brings into discussion the way Leigh filmed this movie, which isn’t very different from other movies of his, but still brings up plenty of interesting ideas of what was meant to be said with this flick. See, rather than having almost every character improv their rumps off in front of the camera with Leigh standing behind it and just filming whatever he could get, he allowed each and every worker to make up their own lines and feelings, rehearse it for quite some time, and then eventually start filming and putting it altogether. At times, this approach works because a lot of what these characters have to say, feel honest and brutal, but sometimes it doesn’t mix well with all of the over-the-top theatrics that Leigh throws in himself.

Case in point, the whole subplot featuring the supposed land-lord of Johnny’s ex, Jeremy G. Smart as played by Greg Cruttwell. Cruttwell is good at playing this evil, sinister bastard that has no care or affection for the women that he seduces, and only cares about making them feel the pain and agony that he feels on a day-to-day basis. And that’s all fine and dandy, but the story never really has much to do with Johnny’s or anybody else’s for that matter. He shows up from time-to-time, takes our minds off of Johnny’s life, and gets us involved with something that seems to be pushing the envelope, only for the sake of doing so. No reason or rhyme whatsoever. Probably would have worked in a flick that was centered solely than this, but being the case that it is in this movie and gets in the way of everything, it’s a bit bothersome to have to deal with, especially since Johnny himself is such an interesting character overall.

All men love not having to do any work, and just laying there.

All men love not having to do any work and just laying there.

The reason why Johnny is such an interesting character isn’t because of how sharp and smartly Leigh has written him to be, but because David Thewlis is such a master at playing him, that it still makes me ponder the reason as to why he didn’t even get an Oscar nomination for his work of brilliance here. Considering that most of what Johnny says and feels, is mainly through Thewlis and Thewlis alone, you feel closer and closer to this character, even though you know you shouldn’t. Johnny’s not a nice guy and as the first shot of this movie may have you think, is a total and complete dick-bag that you do not want to ever be around for five seconds, let alone, for a whole two hours. However, Leigh throws him in front of our faces and never asks us to gain sympathy for him or what he’s brought onto himself.

Instead, we just get a portrait of a character who is just being himself, and nothing but. You rarely ever see that with a movie, and it was a big surprise that Leigh or Thewlis didn’t try to sap him up in any way, in order to make us care for him. He’s a character, being a character, in all his fullest and complete form. And to top all of that off, Thewlis is actually pretty damn hilarious, not just because of the lines he delivers, but by how dry and ironic he is half of the time. Everybody else around him seems so serious and dramatic, that once Johnny comes through to shake things up a bit, you realize that the world needs more humans like Johnny; minus all of the women-torturing, violence, anger, and such. Then again though, the world needs more anger and more people to shake a big, middle-finger to the Man, so maybe that’s what Johnny represents and what we should represent as well?

Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

Consensus: At times, it can be a ponderous experience, but taken as a whole, and especially as a meditation on the way our youth views the rest of the world and society altogether, Naked is an interesting flick to watch and listen to, made all the better by David Thewlis’ brilliant piece of acting as Johnny.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Perfect place for a couple of drinks: the same spot you just did a number two in.

Perfect place for a couple of drinks.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (2014)

It’s over. So pipe down, nerds!

After having left his precious castle, Smaug roams free and is killed. This leaves many happy and feeling safe for once. This also leaves Thorin (Richard Armitage) to go back and take back what was rightfully his in the first place: His throne. Problem is, word spreads pretty quickly that he’s sitting in his high chair and this does not make Thranduil (Lee Pace). So, like any good elf would do, he wages war against Thorin, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and the rest of their band of trusted misfits; a war which Thorin and co. could definitely lose, but they don’t seem to be turning away from. However though, the war takes a turn for the worse once the Orc’s get involved in the shenanigans, making it harder for this war to be won, but decide who is on who’s side, and why. It’s all so wild and crazy, but at the center of it all is Bilbo, who just wants to get that precious ring of his back to his comfortable, lovely little life in the shire.

So far, the Hobbit trilogy has been an okay one. Maybe that’s just from my standpoint, but for the most part, I haven’t seen myself incredibly upset about there being three Hobbit movies released over a three-year period. Sure, it’s a bit obvious and manipulative of Peter Jackson to stretch a 300-page book, into nearly eight hours of footage, but for me, the movie’s never got so offensively made that they were just downright terrible. They were fine for what they were, and that’s how they’re supposed to be viewed as, I feel. Even if, yes, the Lord of the Rings franchise is a whole lot better in hindsight.

"Aw damn."

“Aw damn.”

With that being said, it was nice to see Jackson finally end this trilogy on a note that was not only effective, but seemed like it was a return-to-form for his own true-self. The past two movies have been fun, adventurous and chock full of all the medieval exposition nonsense we expect from a movie such as this, but they haven’t really been too exciting to where you could tell Jackson was really just letting loose and having a ball with this material. In a way, one could almost view it as another lame attempt at Jackson just trying to hold onto this name-brand he loves and adores so much.

But regardless whatever the reasons may have been, Jackson brings back all of the excitement he showed in the early part of his ambitious career and it’s what makes the Battle of the Five Armies a good time. Because there’s so much action firing around on all cylinders, with numerous characters coming in and out of perspective, you get the general sense that Jackson is literally taking all the pieces of his puzzle, shuffling them around, and just letting them stick and stay there, for them to do their own thing and see how we respond. And, well, for the most part, it works well; it brings a certain level of tension to a franchise that, quite frankly, needed plenty of it.

However, like with the other films, Jackson still seems to get bogged down in not knowing where to go with his stories, or whom exactly to focus on the most.

What I mean by this is that while this is clearly Bilbo’s story first and foremost, Jackson pays plenty of attention to nearly everyone else around him. Thorin, Gandalf, Legolas, Tauriel, Thranduil, Bard, and even Saruman, all get plenty of development in the first hour or so of this, whereas we don’t really get much of a simple glance or two at Bilbo and just what the hell he’s up to. Sure, I get that Jackson doesn’t want to keep his scope limited and much rather focus on the ensemble at hand, but when you’re film is literally named after the main character and you give him maybe two or three paragraphs for the first hour, it makes me wonder just who the hell you really care about when all is said and done.

That’s not to say when Martin Freeman is given the chance, he isn’t willing to work his arse off whenever Bilbo’s on-screen, because he totally does in that lovably charming, yet sly way of his that always seems to work no matter where he’s at. It’s just that a part of me thinks Jackson didn’t seem to care about any more development for him and instead, just lingered towards the rest of the cast of characters who aren’t nearly as interesting, nor as fun to watch as Bilbo. Everybody’s fine in their roles, but seeing as how this is Bilbo’s own story, it seems only right that we focus on him the most, and allow Freeman to just work his magic. Almost as if he’s in whole other different universe completely, but it doesn’t matter because he’s so much fun to begin with.

"For freedom! I guess?"

“For freedom! I guess?”

Just wish there was more Martin Freeman to go around. I guess you can never get too much of that tiny fella.

But despite all of my moaning and complaining, the movie still entertained the shorts off of me (not literally, sadly). Once again, we see Jackson in a state of mind that shows, despite his story-telling elements being a bit off, he still packs enough punch to make his action excite nearly anyone watching it. It doesn’t matter if you’re invested in the characters or not, if you have a clear idea of who the good guy is, and who is the bad one, then all you need to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy as the fist-a-cuffs come out and everyone starts duking it out. A part of me wishes the other two movies were like this, but I’ll take what I can get, whenever I get it. Even if, you know, it is a bit pleasing to see this franchise done once and for all. Hopefully it will allow for Jackson to go back to his old school roots and try something smaller, and possibly even go back to doing horror.

Let’s just hope he stays the hell away from another Lovely Bones. Please, anything but that.

Consensus: With enough action-packed sequences of swords, sorcery, and stones, the Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies is the kind of Middle Earth movie we wanted from Peter Jackson, except not nearly as epic as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

I would say, "don't do it", but we already know he's far too gone. Wait? Was "the Ring" a metaphor for drug-addiction? All this time and nobody's informed me on this? What the hell?!?!?

I would say, “don’t do it”, but we already know he’s far too gone. Wait? Was “the Ring” a metaphor for drug-addiction? All this time and nobody’s informed me on this? What the hell?!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Top Five (2014)

Man, sometimes I wish that more people other than my mom thought I was funny.

Mega-superstar Andre Allen (Chris Rock) has a lot going on in his life right now. For one thing, he’s got a new movie coming out that may, or may not, signal his change from being in/apart of “comedies”, and doing more dramatic, emotional pieces that show him in a serious-manner. He’s also supposed to be getting married to his rich and famous fiancee, Erica (Gabrielle Union), even though some of it seems like it’s all being made up for the reality show they have on Bravo. And, to make matters slightly a bit worse, Andre’s now got to promote his new movie in this one weekend, where he’s going to be interviewed and accompanied by New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). Though the two don’t get along at first, they eventually start to hit it off where they learn more and more about one another, and eventually, try to help each other with their own respective careers. Even if both of them feel like they don’t need much help to begin with, whether they realize it or not.

If Charlie Rose thinks you're funny, then hell, you must be!

If Charlie Rose thinks you’re funny, then hell, you must be!

I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again for any of you out there keeping score at home: Chris Rock is by far one of the funniest comedians we have working today. Sure, the man has had his flops and has definitely gotten a bit too comfy and cozy with the likes of Adam Sandler as of late, but for the most part, when Rock brings his A-game, the laughs just never end. Take for instance, his relatively recent SNL hosting gig where, during his opening monologue, he went on and on about such controversial topics as 9/11, the Boston Marathon,the Freedom Tower, and guns. While some cried foul and felt as if it was in poor taste from SNL to let somebody like Rock not just go on about this, but to do so with his own writing.

For me though, it was a hilarious monologue that yeah, may have definitely been a tad bit uncomfortable to sit through at times, but that’s sometimes where the best bits of comedy comes from. If somebody says something you’ve been thinking your whole life, but had never mustered up the courage to actually get out and say yourself, it’s automatically hilarious. Not because what the person said is actually funny, but because they’re bringing out something within you that you’ve been keeping bottled-up inside for so very, very long, and it was about time that it got out there for the whole world to see.

However, that was nearly a month ago and now, we have Rock’s new movie, Top Five, which, once again, proves my point to the rest of the world out there: Chris Rock is one of the funniest comedians working today.

And because this is Rock’s baby right here (he wrote, directed, starred, and made love to this movie), this is a huge aspect in judging how much one person can enjoy this movie. Because while, on paper, it seems like what Rock is doing is trying to make bygones for all of the silly decisions he’s made over his storied-career, it’s more of a piece that shows us why he still deserves to be taken in by the current mainstream audience and not just forgotten about. Rock wants us to remember the simple fact that he’s still got the funny in him, and he spends nearly the whole movie showing us this.

Thankfully, too, it all works. Without ever seeming desperate or as if he doesn’t have his own laugh-track, Rock allows his Andre Allen character to be a perfect example of what Rock does best; the guy riffs on everything around him, and seems to never ever take anything around him seriously. However, he still wants to be taken seriously – not just as an actor, but as a person. While this could have definitely been another one of those “oh great, here we go” moments we normally see in these kinds of movies, Rock steers clear of this and actually seems genuine when he’s being dramatic. He doesn’t try too hard, but more or less, allows himself to just be seen by the audience, picked apart as much as they choose to do so, and looked at in a different light. This doesn’t mean that Rock spends the whole movie just moping around, begging people to love him like it was New Jack City all over again, but he’s more or less utilizing some of those dramatic-skills of his that may have been there his whole life, and we’re just finding out about now.

But I don’t want to make it seem like Rock makes it all about him, his specialties, or even what he wants to get across, because this here movie is a joint-effort and it’s nice to see Rock sit aside and let the rest of his star-studded cast just take matters into their own hands and see what magic can happen. It’s a sign that not only is Rock a lenient director, but that he’s also a nice guy who is willing to let his fellow friends and confidantes take over his show. Even if it is for only slightly a bit.

Rosario Dawson gets the biggest role out of the whole supporting cast and does a great job as Chelsea Brown – the kind of journalist that makes some people, such as myself, who are in that line of profession a bit sick, but is still charming enough, that it’s okay to get past many of the unethical journalistic moves she makes throughout. What’s so interesting about the way in how Brown is written, is that, on paper, she seems conventional; she’s the simple, easygoing gal that’s going to save the big time Hollywood actor from all of the spotlight, glitz and glamour. But while she may seem like this, at first, Dawson builds her to be something of a genuine character with hopes, feelings, and emotions that wants nearly as more from life as Andre does. The movie never tries to look down upon her, or even the sort of effect she’s having on Andre, as much as it just looks at them two together, smiles, and lets them do their thing.

The perfect Hollywood romance. Somewhere, I know there lies a sex tape.

The perfect Hollywood romance. Somewhere, I know there lies a sex tape.

Which already means that yes, Dawson and Rock are great together and seem like they’re actually good pals off the screen. Whatever the inspiration may have been behind Dawson’s casting for Rock is definitely interesting, because she fits into this role perfectly and it becomes abundantly clear whenever the two are walking around the streets of New York City, talking about life, romance, kids, sex, parties, and yes, their top five favorite rappers. But, like I said before, it isn’t just Dawson and Rock’s show, as they’re more than willing to share the spotlight and let the rest of the cast do their thing, shine a little bit, and continue to allow the movie to move on as it so pleases to do so.

J.B. Smoove plays Rock’s bodyguard/assistant and is great in a role that has him being the guy who hits on every woman he sees, in the most casual, innocent way possible; Gabrielle Union plays a character that seems very shallow and one-dimensional at the beginning, but actually has one scene where we see her for the person she truly is and it’s not only a surprisingly effective dramatic scene here, but puts her whole character into perspective and allows us, the audience, to gain just a smidgen of sympathy for her; Cedric the Entertainer also shows up here and reminds everybody that he’s still funny, especially now that he’s away from that strange Who Wants to be a Millionaire? gig; current SNL cast-members, Leslie Jones, Michael Che and Jay Pharoah all make it clear why they should get better material to work with every time we turn on the tube to see them; and last, but certainly not least, Tracy Morgan’s here in a very comedic-role that shows him being the big, lovable goof that he was, making it all the more of a travesty that we may never get to see him acting like this again.

But while I may have only touched upon a few or so people here from this cast, I can assure you, there’s plenty more where these ones came from (especially an amazing cameo from a personal hero of mine). Which is hard for me to not go into further detail about, because everybody who shows up here is, in one way, shape or form, funny. Some of it seems like they’re funny because of what Rock has wrote for them to be funny with, but some of it also seems like they’re all just riffing with reckless abandon. While this would seem pretentious and almost too self-important to be considered “entertainment”; it’s not only just that, but assures us that Rock, along with his very funny friends, are here to stay.

Thank heavens.

Consensus: As ambitious as it is thought-provoking, Top Five finds Chris Rock not just back in his comfort-zone as a comedian, but as a guy who is willing to remind people of the very hilarious talents that are out there, just waiting to be discovered, or at least found again.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Subway romance: So cute, but please, shut up so that I can rock out to my RATM before work.

Subway romance: Cute and all, but please, shut up so that I can rock out to my RATM before work.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Still Alice (2014)

Everybody’s a little forgetful. Especially my ex-girlfriend. I mean, it was my birthday for gosh sakes!

50-year-old Dr. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) lives a pretty good life. She has a loving husband (Alec Baldwin), lives in a comfy home, teaches at Columbia, has three, grown-up kids that constantly stay in touch with her, and she seems to have it all figured out. However, that all changes one day when she begins to realize that she’s forgetting certain things. Not just any certain things, but things that she used to know or at least, should know. Though it’s only tiny pieces of forgotten knowledge, Alice still doesn’t take any chances and decides to go to the doctor to take a test. She gets the results a week later and finds out that she’s been diagnosed with a rare case early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She, as well as the rest of her family, is absolutely devastated. But they all soon realize that they have to take advantage of the time they have with their mother now, before it’s all too late and Alice has forgotten just about everything in her life.

It’s a shame that certain movies such as Still Alice, are generally regarded as “made-for-TV specials”, only because of their plot, or what it is that they decide to talk about. Usually, movies about people with certain dramatic, life-altering diseases, are thrown onto Lifetime to be seen by housewives from all over the globe, where they’ll go “ooh” and “ahh”, and think it is maybe the greatest piece of film they have ever seen. This assumption of mine may not be right, but for the most part, movies about diseases, usually get tossed to the TV-screens, so that the heavy-hitters can play where the big boys play, and that’s the cinema’s.

Look out, paparazzo, Alec Baldwin 'a comin'.

Look out, paparazzo, Alec Baldwin ‘a comin’.

But with Still Alice, there’s finally an exception to the rule that proves it doesn’t matter what disease-of-the-week your movie seems to be discussing or highlighting, if it is good, then people will see it, regardless of what form they decide to do so. In this case though, it’s on the big screen, with noticeable, big-hitter names like “Julianne Moore”, “Alec Baldwin”, “Kristen Stewart”, and yes, even “Kate Bosworth”, and still seems like it could be played on TV.

The main reason of that has less to do with the material and more of just the way it’s cheaply-shot by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, but regardless, it’s still a movie that discusses a real life, actual disease and does so in an efficient, thought-provoking way. It hardly ever gets over-dramatic and it doesn’t really even seem to paint its main character, Alice, as any kind of miracle woman, that so tragically gets hit with this disease. Sure, it’s very sad and I wouldn’t wish this disease upon anyone (or any disease, for the record), but Alice, as portrayed in this movie, isn’t a wonderful lady. She’s a nice one, but she’s like you or I – she makes mistakes, she acts selfish and, especially when finding out about this disease of hers, starts to take advantage of the situation to get whatever it is that she wants, from whomever she wants.

This may give the impression that Alice is a terrible woman who nobody would ever want to see a whole movie dedicated to, let alone one including her struggle with getting past a life-changing disease such as Alzheimer’s, but the movie doesn’t try to push that off on us. She’s a normal, everyday woman that you’d meet on the street, but the sad reality of her life is that she has this disease and it’s making her life, as well as those around her, a living hell.

So yeah, it’s pretty sad material that we’re working with here, but Westmoreland and Glatzer don’t ever seem to let this go too far to where it’s downright depressing and preachy. They both show the problems one faces with Alzheimer’s, how they can try to overcome it, and/or what others can do to help that person who is currently struggling. They take their sweet time with this character and her disease, and it never seems “Hollywood-ized”, nor does it ever seem like it’s pandering to anyone, at any time.

Especially not when Westmoreland and Glatzer begin to discuss the darker layers of this story and what the disease can do to those afflicted with it. For instance, there’s a surprising amount of detail that goes into Alice’s plans for her suicide, when she’s going to do it, how she’s going to do it, and just whether or not she’ll even remember. Had this been shown strictly on television first, I can assure you, we probably wouldn’t have seen this aspect developed, or better yet, even brought up in the first place. But considering that this is a feature film, Westmoreland and Glatzer are given a hell of a lot more free reign to dig deep into the problems one person may definitely have if they’re ever diagnosed with this same problem.

It’s not only eye-opening to a dense idiot such as myself, but also helps us appreciate Alice, the character here, a whole lot more.

Because, see, like I said before about Alice and the way she’s written in this movie, she’s not perfect, but she’s real and that’s what matters the most. Some of this has to do with the way Alice is developed, but most of it is because of Julianne Moore and the way she searches long and hard to get to the center of this woman, and how it’s hard to ever take your eyes off of her. However, don’t be fooled by the marketing of this movie, this isn’t a very showy performance from Moore; it’s just a near-perfect showing of what she does best, when given the right material to do so with: Act her rump off.

A couple of weeks ago, in my Maps to the Stars review, I discussed how Moore, to me at least, felt like the type of actress who is usually solid in anything she does, but she’s hardly surprising. She’s always good, but when was the last time you walked away from a movie going, “Wow. That Julianne Moore performance really took me out of my seat”? I can’t think of the last time either, so don’t feel ashamed, my little friend, but I will say that her performance in Still Alice may just be so, which is hugely surprising considering there’s hardly ever a moment here that makes it seem like she wants to grab a hold of the audience’s throats and remind everybody that she’s an actress dammit, and a great one at that. Instead, Moore down-plays just about everything that happens to Alice here and because her condition is one that works its way, slowly but surely, it’s extremely effective and reminds you of good acting, when it isn’t trying to tell you so.

Now, of course there’s been a lot of buzz going on surrounding Moore’s work here and how it might finally, after all of these years, gain her an Oscar, but all that aside, it’s still a very good performance. Moore’s ability to be subtle and show us the pain deep down inside of Alice, each and every time she gets confused about something she doesn’t know, is heart-breaking. She makes us understand that this condition is downright terrifying for the person who has it, and that they can literally forget where the bathroom is in their own home that they’ve had for over two decades. It’s incredibly sad to watch, but Moore gives a raw feel that’s not entirely begging for our attention, but more or less, daring you to take your eyes away from her, no matter what scene she’s in.

"Okay, mom. I swear I'll stop doing YA adaptations."

“Okay, mom. I swear I’ll stop doing YA adaptations.”

And though this is obviously Moore’s show from beginning to end, the rest of the cast is pretty good, too, even if some don’t get as much to do as others. Alec Baldwin, believe it or not, actually gets the chance to play a loving, adoring, and dedicated husband who, sadly, has been thrown into a situation he himself does not know if he can handle. In fact, I’d say one of the more interesting insights this movie delves into is how the person with the disease isn’t just the only one who’s hurt, but much rather, those who love and support that person as well. Sometimes, even worse because the others are at least conscious of what’s going on and realizing that they’re losing someone that they love; whereas, in some cases, the person with the disease understands what is happening to them, at least accepts it, moves on, and appreciates all that they have left on this planet.

With Alice’s family, it’s interesting to see who is actually able to handle this transformation in her life, and who exactly isn’t. A perfect example of this are the two sisters, played by Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart (who is pretty great in this movie and makes me want to see more of her, of course, but on a smaller-scale); the former’s character is a neat, classy and professional lawyer who is, for the most part, the up-tight one of the two, whereas the later’s character is more of the family wild child who does what she wants, when she wants to, regardless of how much influence her parents try to throw into her future. Oh, and even worse, she’s living in L.A. as a part-time actor. If that doesn’t get parents’ blood boiling, I don’t know what does.

Anyway, you’d think that because Bosworth’s character has already has such success with her life as is, that she’d be the one to step right up, know what to do with her mother, and exactly how to handle it in an efficient way. However, that’s the exact opposite of what happens here, as it’s more of Stewart’s somewhat-reckless character that takes the reigns as her mother’s most dedicated and understanding caretaker, all the more proving that it doesn’t matter who you think a person may, or may not be from the way they generally are, see how they are when they react in a moment of crisis and then you’ll know exactly who they are.

Then again though, that’s how it usually is with family. You never know what you’re going to get, but you can always depend on love being there.

Consensus: Without overdoing the melodrama, Still Alice (which is a terrible title, I must say) is an effective, thought-provoking piece about early onset Alzheimer’s disease that not only gives us one of Julianne Moore’s best performances, but also proves to be an insightful look into how family-dynamics change, especially once one member seems to have lost it all. Literally speaking, in this case.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Have been in your situation many times, honey. Don't feel bad.

Have been in your situation many times, honey. Don’t feel too bad.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Wild (2014)

I just walked from my living-room to the kitchen, so why am I still addicted to heroin?

One day, 30-ish-year-old Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to do a 1,000 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, all by her lonesome-self. Why is this? Well, after years of drug abuse, random sex with strangers, the loss of her mother (Laura Dern), a few pregnancy scares, and her recent divorce, Cheryl has about had it up to here with life and finally realizes that in order for her to finally change it all, she has to get away from it all and focus her attention on another part of her life: Survival. This means, for Cheryl, she has to eat a lot of cold oatmeal, stay hydrated, stay warm, not die, and sure as hell not get raped by any of the huge creep-o’s that may, or may not be out there in the wilderness, just waiting for a little thing like her to come around into their little wooden-hut. Mostly though, Cheryl just wants to change her life and along her journey, she meets people that are sometimes in the same situation as her, or are just simply hiking for the hell of it.

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going....

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going….

You know, like we all do.

On the outside looking into a movie like Wild, I cannot help myself one bit to not just scoff at a piece that includes someone played by Reese Witherspoon hiking on an Eat Pray Love-style journey of self-discovery, all because she shot up heroin, had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s, and got a divorce, because she had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s. To me, not only does it sound like not “my type of thing”, but it seems like pure Oscar-bait for Witherspoon to show her “range”, and also to see her as a bad-ass kind of gal. Call me harsh, call me what you will, but I know when a movie intrigues me and this was not one of them.

But, from the inside of this movie looking out, I can easily say that not only did it turn out to be “my type of thing”, but Witherspoon more than proved herself capable of being hot, sassy little mama who screws, shoots up, and divorces, whatever she wants, when she wants, and how she chooses to do so.

I never thought I’d ever be typing that in my life, but such is the case when you have a little surprise like this on your hands.

And most of that is due to director Jean-Marc Vallée’s handling of this material and not just letting it tell itself; Vallée gets us inside the mind of this Cheryl Strayed character, shows us what she’s thinking, when she’s thinking, why, and how it affects her current journey in life. Though it gets a bit over-the-top with all of the constant smarmy-narration from Strayed, Vallée still does a nice enough job of putting us slap dab in the middle of this woman’s life and the journey she’s embarking on, and making us actually care for her. Sure, he may utilize more flashbacks than two whole episodes of Lost, but they’re flashbacks that work and allow us to grow closer to this character, the more and more that we know about her.

And trust me, that’s not an easy feet, especially when you have Reese Witherspoon playing the main character, but there’s something about her here that really shocked me and actually puts her whole career into perspective, as a matter of fact. See, it’s not that I dislike Witherspoon as an actress – I think she’s immensely talented and, in the past, has proven to be quite versatile in what she’s chosen, and for how much cash. But lately, it seems that the Reese we all once knew and loved as Elle Woods (or as Tracy Flick, for all you cool 90’s kids out there), has gone the way of the Dodo and would much rather take a huge pay-cut to star in movies where dashing, handsome-as-hell men fight to the death for her and leave her going, “Oh, golly!”

Well, my friends, you no longer have to be scared because it seems like the Reese Witherspoon we all loved is back and this time, she’s rawer than ever! Meaning, that yes, Witherspoon does get quite naked in here and shows us elements to her abilities as an actress that none of us have ever seen before, and it all works. She’s compelling, smart and gives much insight into the type of damaged woman you can still like and care for, even if she’s made some pretty dumb mistakes in the past, and especially to people who don’t at all deserve it. The role could have easily been another large check for Witherspoon, but she puts so much effort into it that it actually pays off and has me so excited to see what she has next. Because, quite frankly, with all of the hits on her hands, by now, she can do whatever she damn well pleases with her career.

....and going......

….and going……

Quite like Cheryl Strayed.

Anyway, all that aside, Wild isn’t perfect. There are moments where it seems to fall back on “are they, or aren’t they rapists” aspect of its story and while it may bring tension to the story, it feels constantly thrown in there, if only to just keep peoples eyes open and watching the screen. But that isn’t to say Cheryl Strayed’s adventure isn’t, as is, already intriguing, or even, ever so slightly, inspirational, because, yes, it is. Though Vallée doesn’t hit us over-the-head too many times with making us feel like we should love this person more and more as she goes on with our journey, it’s still easy to do so. Not because she’s been through a whole hell of a lot to begin with, but because she actually wants to make amends for it all.

The real reason as to why she actually gets up one day and decides to say, “Aw, fuck it! Time for a 1,000 mile hike”, is a question that the movie brings up, never explicitly answers, and leaves hanging like a sad flower that’s been without water for too long. But it doesn’t need to. With giving us many insights into Strayed’s past-life, we get the impression that she needs this more than anything. However, rather than being a total baby and seeming like she’s running away from her problems, it seems more like she’s walking towards a new life, that will probably have its fair share of problems. However, she’s constantly learning and understanding that life will always get better. Sometimes though, you just have to take advantage of it, get up, and see what’s out there in this huge canvas we call “Earth”.

Okay, now I’m definitely getting sappy here. Damn you, Reese!

Consensus: With a compelling lead performance from a very dedicated Reese Witherspoon, Wild gets past any of the problems it may have with its narrative and reminds its audience about the small pleasures in life, even if they don’t always come right away.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

...and, yup, you guessed it, still going......

…and, yup, you guessed it, still going……

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Prophet (2009)

Initiation in jail is just the same as initiation in frats. Except, in jail, you have to kill somebody. Then again, who knows about some frats.

Condemned to six years in prison, Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim), part Arab, part Corsican, cannot read or write. Cornered by the leader of the Corsican gang currently ruling the prison, he is given a number of “missions” to carry out, toughening him up and gaining the gang leader’s confidence in the process, which also leads him to make his own way of business. And eventually, little Malik becomes big, bad Malik and before he knows it, ends up becoming the top dog in the prison. But, as usual, when one becomes the top dog, you always got to check every corner you turn down.

Prison movies – we’ve seen ‘em all, we know what they do, and yet, they hardly ever get boring. That is exactly the way I felt going into this movie because I know that there is only so much one person can do with the whole prison movie subgenre, but somehow, co-writer/director Jacques Audiard found a way to do so.

"Pretty birds...."

“Pretty birds….”

And also make me want to really re-watch some Oz.

What’s so great about this film is how it draws you in right from the start. We don’t get any back-story, no flash-backs, or any type of reasons given for why this kid is in jail, and we don’t really need to; all we know is that he’s in jail, he’s a bad kid, and he’s going to have to survive for the next six years of being locked up. This whole introduction brings you right into the world/setting that you’re going to stuck with for the next two-and-a-half-hours and no matter how dirty, no matter how disgusting, and no matter how vile it may get, you just cannot look away. This is just one of those gritty tales that starts off strong, brings you into it’s atmosphere, and never lets go of you, even if it does try to stretch out its ambitions every once and awhile. However, in the end, this is your typical prison movie, just with an extra addition of grit.

The best way to sum this film up would be to call it a combination of Goodfellas and The Shawshank Redemption. The whole story revolves around this one kid who does anything that he can to just survive and live out his six-year sentence, but soon realizes that he has to be apart of a bunch of mobsters in order to do so. Meaning, he has yo do whatever he can to survive, which usually entails climbing the mobster-ladder, trying to make more money, trying to gain more respect, and most of all, trying to just stay alive in a prison that feels like hell on Earth. It all sounds so predictable, but it’s surprisingly not and features a character that we sympathize with early on and keep with, even if he does make some nasty, brutal decisions here and there.

But he feels real, and that’s mostly why he works and can mostly keep us in his corner practically the whole time. As soon as he’s thrown into prison, we see a young punk who is very scared of his surroundings and has no idea what to do, but then musters up the courage to start doing all of these monstrous actions to gain some respect in prison. He’s not the nicest kid actually; he’s greedy, he’s selfish, he’s a cold-blooded killer, and he doesn’t really think about others before himself, but for some odd reason, we always root for him and just want him to live on. That is probably the biggest strength of this movie and Audiard’s direction, it’s that we always feel sympathy for a kid that doesn’t seem like he even deserves it in the first place. This movie probably would have cracked and been less interesting, had it not been for the development done to him and for that, I gotta say, “Well-done, Frenchies!”

"Dammit! Sat on the ketchup packets again!"

“Dammit! Sat on the ketchup packets again!”

And of course, I also have to give plenty of credit to Tahar Rahim, who does quite an awesome job as Malik because the guy is called out to do a lot of things with this character, and he somehow makes it all work in a believable way. He goes from being this scared, sheltered little kid in a very big and mean place, to becoming a dirty, slimy, and brutal bastard that takes over the prison in a way that would seem unbelievable, had it been any other story and any other character. There’s also a lot of personality to this guy to where you can actually see why the film is mainly focused on him, and the whole story surrounds everything he does, whether it be good or bad.

As good as Rahim is though, the real scene-stealer of the whole movie just so happens to be Niels Arestrup as the prison-mafia kingpin, César Luciani, who takes Malik under his wing from the start. What surprised me so much about Arestrup is that this guy does not look any bit of intimidating; he’s stoutly, he’s in desperate need of a shave/shape-up, walks around like he’s got something in his pants, and in all honesty, looks like my pop-pop, if my pop-pop was homeless and an alcoholic. So basically, if you saw this guy walking down the street, you would not fear for your life one bit but somehow, Arestrup makes us feel that with his character in every scene he’s in. The guy obviously shows you that he has power and control in this prison and lets you know, early on, that he’s not messing around when he orders you to go kill some guy, and he makes sure you don’t forget who the boss of this prison is and if you double-cross him, you better hope to the heavens that you get the hole, and even that won’t save your life. It’s really strange to see Arestrup play such a manic-like role here, whereas in something like War Horse, he played this sympathetic, grand-pappy figure that seemed to cry a little too much the whole film. Even though this movie came out before that one, it’s still nice to see a change of pace for an actor that obviously seems like he could have a big career just playing any type of role he wanted.

Consensus: It’s a long one, but if you stick with it, A Prophet is not only worth your time and effort for the small spin it puts on the prison genre, but also because of the performances for these fully-detailed characters.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Not the line for the soup kitchen, fellas. Move it along.

Not the line for the soup kitchen, fellas. Move it along.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

We Are the Best! (2014)

Punk musicians who can’t play their instruments? Join the club!

In 1980’s Stockholm, 13-year-old’s Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are tired of being pissed off, and pissed on by the world around them. That’s when they decide it’s time to start a band, although neither one knows how to play an actual instrument. Still, they are angry enough to just whack whatever instruments they’re given, write naughty lyrics about hating gym class, and yell as loud as they want. But eventually, the two realize that maybe it’s time to add another member to their duo and make it a threesome. In walks Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a very-Christian gal that plays acoustic guitar and is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Bobo and Klara. However, the three all eventually get along well once they realize that they hate the same things and want to find an outlet to voice their hatred for all things in life. That said, they still have their issues, and find ways to not only clash with those around them, but even each other and it might break up the band for good.

"1, 2, 3, 4!"

“1-2-3-4!”

Being a kid, for the most part, can kind of suck. Sure, there’s the lovely joys one can go through when growing up where you can practically do anything you want, no consequences whatsoever, but there’s also the feeling that you are hardly getting as much respect or consideration as you should. Because, when you’re young, say around 12-14-years-old, all you want to do is be respected as an adult, be taken seriously, and speak your mind freely, and when that doesn’t happen, it’s not just disappointing, but quite infuriating as well.

That happened to me, sort of, but this post isn’t all about me. Rather, it’s about these three young girls in We Are the Best! – Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig. All of whom, not only seem like they’re actually the age they’re playing (which may not sound like much, but trust me, totally is), but seem like real life, actual young girls you’d see on the street. But not just any ordinary young girls, but more or less, young girls that aren’t afraid to speak out and show the world that they’re tired, pissed off and definitely not going to take it anymore.

This aspect to these characters, not only made them more than just another bunch of girls coming into their own-selves as women, but as human beings as a whole. And to me, that was the most interesting aspect surrounding this movie.

For instance, Klara is exactly the kind of girl I knew growing up and still run into from now and again; she’s young, blissful, chock full of energy and is always around to tell you that she doesn’t like what you’re doing and doesn’t care what you think about her. She’s just being who she is, get used to it and sod off. But what’s so interesting about Klara, the character, isn’t that she’s a teeny, tiny little rebel of a gal, but that she doesn’t always seem to be like this and, instead, is like you or I, even though she definitely wouldn’t want to admit that. She wants to be loved, feels love, and most of all, can get very sad when her feelings are hurt.

Though this may seem like nothing special, when you take into perspective the kind of person she is (a rebel without much of a cause and without an even lesser of a care about anything), this makes you see her for who she really is: A little girl just starting to make sense of the world. The difference with Klara is that she’s willing to tell the world to fuck off, if need be. Not only does this make her the most interesting character, but definitely the highlight of a film which has many.

This isn’t to exclude the other two gals though, because Bobo and Hedvig are both very well-written, three-dimensional girls that go through some transformations over time and make it seem all so realistic. And a movie like this, had it taken the wrong step or false note, it probably would have destroyed the whole picture. However, somehow, writer/director Lukas Moodysson finds neat, interesting ways to make these characters feel even rawer than before and even make the situations that they run into, not just revelatory to anybody who has ever been a kid before and gone through the growing up angst portrayed here, but for anybody who has ever imagined themselves as staying the same person forever and forever.

Fact is, you won’t. So, get up, shut up, stop crying, and move on with your lives.

Uh oh. Whenever the boys come around, trouble's lingering right behind.

Uh oh. Whenever the boys come around, trouble’s lingering right behind.

Better yet, go out there and make something of yourself. Even if you think you may not work out or if others don’t like what you’re doing, then screw them! As long as you’re happy with yourself, and the people who support you, then that’s all that matters. Anything else is just poppycock and shouldn’t be thought about even more.

And yes, I realize that I’m getting a whole lot further and further away from this movie, but I can’t help myself. Little movies like this, that feel and act so real, are the kinds that make me so happy. Not because it seems like somebody finally understands what it was like to be a kid, but what it was like to be a kid, while you’re in the process of officially growing up. However, what Moodysson does so well here is that he doesn’t try to sugarcoat all of these little girls’ everyday adventures in some sort of cheesy, yet very manipulative nostalgia; he just presents these kids as being kids, and as a result, makes us feel like kids all over again. It isn’t that we’re being told, “Hey remember when we did that thing when we were kids?”, it’s more like, “Hey, being a kid kind of rocks. So come along with me and lets get into some mischief.”

I can assure you that I didn’t actually like this as a kid. I was too busy getting my head thrown into lockers. Damn bullies.

I’ll show them one day.

Consensus: Smart, heartfelt, and most of all, realistic in the way it presents childhood, We Are the Best! is less about the actual idea of punk music, and more of about branching out and doing something, to not only prove to others that you can do it, but to prove it to yourself as well.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Fuck the free world!! Or, you know. Something like that.

Fuck the free world!! Or, you know. Something like that.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

In Fear (2014)

Pretty sure I’ve recommended this before, but that’s why you always stay at a Motel 6. They keep the lights on for ya.

Tom (Iain De Caestecker) decides that he wants to impress his new girlfriend, Lucy (Alice Englert). So, in order to do this, he books them a hotel for the night, before they go off to some hip, cool folk festival the next day. Problem is, on the way to the hotel, they run into quite a few problems. For one, Tom gets into a bit of a scuffle with some lads at the local pub and doesn’t really know if they’re following him or not. And secondly, he can’t find out where the hell he’s going to get to this damn hotel he made reservations for. Because even though the signs say to go one way, the roads are telling him another way. Eventually, day becomes night and both Lucy and Tom begin to get more freaked out than ever before and wonder if they’re ever going to leave this damn path and find the hotel. And then they come to the scary realization, they might have been followed and even worse, are being toyed with at the expense of some sick, twisted individual.

So while In Fear totally reads out like the most ordinary, by-the-numbers piece of horror, here’s a real shocker for you – it actually isn’t. In fact, I’d say it comes pretty close to being one of the best horror movies I’ve seen this year and I’m not totally sure if it’s even supposed to be placed into that genre.

Slowly coming to the realization that he is not getting laid tonight.

Slowly coming to the realization that he is not getting laid tonight.

Okay, that’s a lie, because it totally is. There’s something inherently chilly and spooky about this movie that will definitely give you the creeps, regardless of if you watch it on Halloween night, or on Christmas Day. Basically, it’s a horror movie, through-and-through, but there’s something else about it that constantly keeps on hitting me in the head and has me thinking differently of where to classify this movie; while the movie may be created for shocks, jumps, and scares, the premise itself is almost way too real.

What I mean by this is that In Fear seems like the type of movie that could literally happen to anyone of us out there. You, or I, or somebody one of us knows, could decide to rent a hotel room for a night in a place that they aren’t already too knowledgeable about in the first place, get lost, get played with by some messed-up person, and even possibly, murdered under mysterious circumstances. And no, I am not giving away the plot to this movie too much and spoiling it for you folks out there, but more or less, speaking in hypothetical terms, as a movie like this begs us to ask this question to ourselves while watching it.

Could this actually happen in real life? Well, yes. Is it highly likely? Possibly. I don’t know. I haven’t heard of too many cases about it, but then again, I’m not looking for any of them either.

Anyway, I’m getting further and further away from the movie and more towards my own, nonsensical philosophical questions about life, and art imitating it. So, I’ll shut up for now, but do realize that one of the main reasons why this movie works so well, is because it seems almost too real to be considered an exciting piece of horror.

But like I was saying before, this is a pretty tense movie that, for the longest time, literally feels like it could go anywhere. This wasn’t just total happiness for a fella like me that expects this anytime I go out to see whatever piece of predictable, conventional garbage the horror genre decides to throw at me next, but total happiness for the inner-film maker in me that made me realize something this simple and easy, could actually be a hell of a time to watch, regardless of budget or names attached to your project. So long so as you have a compelling story idea, along with a group of many others, and decide to go with it in any way you decide to do so, then that’s all you need in order to make for a good film.

Always put your seat-belt on, kids. Or else.

Always put your seat-belt on, kids. Or else.

Well, that, and at least a few developed-characters that are worth our time and effort to get invested in. And here, with Tom and Lucy, we have just that. Though we hardly get to know anything about them other than they are two young people, who like one another and are planning on having something of a romantic getaway together, it’s all we really need. It’s so simple and carefree that we don’t really need much else to identify with them and the peril they eventually are going to go through, but also, it’s so compact in its details that it doesn’t ask us to think anymore about them than we already need to. Sure, they’re young kids, who may not always use their heads when making certain decisions, but there’s something ever so endearing about that that not only made me want to jump into the movie and help them get to some sort of a hotel, but do so as one couple, together, who eventually live happily ever after.

That’s what I wanted the most, and even though the movie presents me with the idea that this may not even happen, there was still that small sense of hope in the pit of my stomach.

And for a movie like this, that matters the most. Whether you want it to or not.

So yeah. That’s about all I can say about this movie without spoiling it for the rest of yous. Just go ahead, check it out, and see what the heck happens next. Because I can totally assure you – you will be hooked and you’ll never want to book a reservation at another shady motel ever again. Unless you didn’t already have this rule beforehand. Then, in that case, good job. You smart specimen, you.

Consensus: Though it may be simple in its frame, In Fear is still compelling enough to not just be a thrilling piece of horror, but also a thought-provoking piece about what you would do if ever caught in the same situation because, well, you never know what could happen next. Just saying.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Next time, don't trust the signs.

Next time, don’t trust the signs.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Foxcatcher (2014)

If this is about wrestling, where are all the tables, ladders, and chairs?

After winning gold at the 1984 Olympic Games, pro wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) doesn’t seem to have much going on in his life. He sort of just lugs around his house, eats Ramen like a barbarian, and continuously trains with his older, much more well-known brother, David (Mark Ruffalo). That all changes though once Mark gets a call from a very wealthy man by the name of John du Pont (Steve Carell) who would not only like to meet Mark, but go so far as to train with him and a few others in preparation for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Mark finally feels like he’s wanted and appreciated for his talents, so therefore, he and du Pont strike up something of a friendship, which often times, sometimes dives into seriously dark places. That’s fine though, so long so as Mark and John are together and happy. But it all changes once again when David comes around to help coach the team and this is when things start to get a bit tense for all parties involved. All up until, of course, they reach their tragic breaking point.

So, if none of you out there have ever heard of any of these real-life people, then have no fear, I won’t spoil the outcome or the intricacies of this story. Instead, I’ll just beat around the bush as much as possible, but I can assure, it doesn’t matter either way. I’ve researched this story long and hard many times throughout my life that even though I knew exactly what happened to each person by the end of this story, I still didn’t care and was constantly on-edge just about the whole time. And also, I just stopped caring and decided to pay attention to what’s on the screen in front of me because, quite frankly, nearly everything about this movie deserves your time and undivided attention.

That nose though.

That nose though.

Most of that’s because the cast is so damn stellar (more on that in a little while), but it’s also because director Bennette Miller knows how to choreograph his movie in such a perfect way, that every scene, every lingering shot, every piece of info that’s slightly thrown at us for us to catch, is worth thinking about and adding up to what the whole final product means. Because honestly, when you’re watching Foxcatcher, you’re not watching a director tell you what his movie’s about; rather, a director who is laying bits and pieces of it out on a large table, gives you a fork and a knife, and lets you just pick up whatever it is you want from it. These are the kind of subtle pieces that hardly ever get made nowadays, and even if they do, they’re hardly seen by more than a few hundred or so people that aren’t cool, got-there-first hipsters, which is why for about the whole two hours of it, I couldn’t stop paying attention.

Once again, this is mostly because of Miller’s direction. Some may say it’s slow, but from my perspective, it seemed deliberate in a way as to get us in the right mood for what was to eventually come of these characters, and the resolution of their times together. It’s not a pretty story here, folks, and if you can’t handle that, then go check out Frozen or something!

But, like I originally promised, I won’t dive into what this story ends up being about, or even how it ends; mostly, I’ll just talk about what makes it work and that’s pretty much everybody involved. I’ve talked plenty about Miller here and I still don’t think I’ve fully hit the nail on the head with it: It’s a very subdued, but artfully crafted direction. Miller doesn’t tell us everything we need to know up front and hardly ever over-does it with the development; he just gives us glimpses of these people, their interactions together, and how it makes them who they are. Would I have liked a little bit more clarification on a few ideas presented in this movie? Of course, but I mostly feel like the reason Miller held back a bit from diving deeper and deeper into these character’s relationships with one another, is not to just offend the main producer of this movie (who also happens to be Mark Schultz), but because it would have nearly been too much to show us, the audience. Keeping it hidden in whispers and emotional stares was perfect enough for Miller to do, and it’s what I found most satisfying.

And if any of you out there are reading this, I think you’ll have a clear idea of what I’m speaking about and won’t go into any more detail about. Because, honestly, what’s suggested is pretty creepy, but then again, so is the rest of this movie.

Which also brings up another point made about so many movies, which is, “Is it enjoyable?”.

Well, my answer to that fine, fine question would be, “No, not really. But it doesn’t really need to be either.” Grim, chilly character-dramas such as this don’t need to throw us a bone here and there to excite things – all it needs to do, and do well, is present us with enough meat in its story and its characters to keep us gripped from the beginning, all the way to the end. If it can do that, then I’m fine with there being no explosions, car-chases, or warfare. Would I like it? Sure, why not. But this isn’t that type of movie and it’s why I think I loved it so much, and haven’t been able to get it out my noggin since the last time I saw it, some few weeks ago.

Anyway though, I know I’ve been avoiding them for quite some time, but I might as well get it out of the way now and say that I hope the trio of leads in this movie get at least a nomination for each of their own, respective pieces of work they put in here. If they win, that’s even better, but honestly, judging by how rigged the Academy is, a nomination would suffice, especially considering how strange these casting-choices are.

First of all, I know having Mark Ruffalo play the honest, earnest, and down-to-Earth dude isn’t a huge surprise to see in a movie, but he’s not the one I’m speaking of. It’s actually Channing Tatum and Steve Carell in two very dark, dramatic, and nearly humorless roles that really shocked the hell out of me. Not just by how effective they were in the roles, but because I hardly saw them as their celebrity, and more of just them as who they were playing. Which, yes, I know may not be saying much, but when you have somebody as recognizable as Tatum is, hardly ever cracking a smile and keeping a straight-face for nearly the whole duration of a film, it’s hard to see it is a “true, bonafide piece of acting”, and more of “an actor trying way too hard to be taken seriously”.

That could have easily been the case here, but because both Tatum and Carell are amazing here, they sink into their roles and hardly ever make it apparent to your mind that these two are most known for their abilities to make a crowd laugh or happy, rather than scared and miserable. Though it’s definitely easier for Carell to disappear into his role as du Pont, what with the stellar nose-job the make-up department’s given him, it still doesn’t matter much because the guy is downright terrifying in this role. We’ve definitely seen Carell do dramatic before, but never as dark and as eerie as it is done so here, and he absolutely commands your attention every time, but without ever begging or pleading for it. The camera just simply lingers on his eyes, the way he tilts his head, sinks into his chairs, and even by the way he awkwardly carries himself from room-to-room, seeming like he’s trying to fit in with the rest of the macho-group around him, but is actually so ill-equipped in doing so, that he’s practically another fish-out-of-water. If anything, this is where Carell gets most of his laughs from, but only because he’s so good in this role that the creepiest things du Pont does over the course of the movie, somehow takes on a ridiculous-view and you can’t help but laugh.

Same goes for Tatum playing the big, muscular lug that is Mark Schultz. In fact, it’s quite a fun role for Tatum, considering that we know he can practically do no wrong now, but him playing a full-and-out meathead, who sometimes borders on the verge of being autistic, is something different and even strange. However, he makes it work so well by just using his physical-prowess and allowing us to feel sorry for this person; we know that he’s clearly vulnerable and wanting to make a name for himself, so it’s obvious that the first guy who comes his way with arms wide open, he’ll fall right into with and hail as his best friend. It’s actually quite sad, really, but what makes it all the more disturbing is how good Carell and Tatum are together.

"Schultz brothers, unite!!"

“Schultz brothers, unite!!”

Sometimes, the friendship gets so strange, you wonder just what the hell exactly this movie is trying to get across about it, but for the most part, the movie’s just basically showing us two actors at the top of their games, and absolutely getting into their character’s mind-set, without any frills attached. It’s wonderful to see these two act together on-screen, but it’s even better to see both of them constantly growing as acting powerhouses in their own rights and it keeps me excited and optimistic for what’s next to come of them in the future.

As for Ruffalo, like I said before, he’s perfect at what he does as David Schultz – he’s told to play this really normal, mellowed-out guy and it’s effective. Which isn’t just because Ruffalo’s great in the role (though he totally is), but because he’s the only sense of normalcy we actually get in this whole piece. With Mark Schultz, you get this battered, awkward, and self-conscious muscle-bound freak that doesn’t really know what to do or say in any situation that comes his way that doesn’t involve wrestling, and with John du Pont, you get this grown up, spoiled, rich kid who just wants to prove to his disapproving mom that he can do something with his life and make her proud. Those two combined are as wacky as you can get, so to get some sort of voice of reason at all, is an absolute blessing. To get it from none other than Mark Ruffalo himself, one of our finest actors working today, it’s a treasure to behold.

Put them altogether, you got three amazing performances in a movie that deserved them all.

Consensus: Dark, chilly, atmospheric, and downright disturbing, Foxcatcher may not quite be the pick-me-up one might expect to see during the holidays, but if you want to witness some of the best performances of the year, then it’s definitely worth a watch and plenty of thinking-space.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I told you, stop dancing already and wrestle!"

“I told you, stop dancing already, and wrestle!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Interstellar (2014)

Huh?

It’s the near-future and the Earth is slowly dying. There appears to be huge gusts of dusty winds about every couple hours or so, but rather than surrendering and calling it quits, people on Earth have learned to just accept it and make it a daily occurrence. Astronaut-turned-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), also happens to be one of these people, yet, still finds enough time out of his day to teach his kids the simple ways of life that he wants them to live by, no matter how crazy things get for this world. That’s when the bombshell gets totally dropped on him from a former confidante of his (Michael Caine), and is given a task: Take a ship and a crew, and find if there is anywhere out there that the human-population can live on. The catch is that time is a lot different in space, so while Cooper may be traveling to the Milky Way for five or six years, on Earth, it’ll be nearly twenty years. So yeah, while it’s a big sacrifice for Cooper, it’s one that he’s willing to take and does so. But, as one can expect, when you’re out there in the vast, open area that is space, you never know what can happen, or how.

"Alright, alright, alright. What the hell's this?"

“Alright, alright, alright. What the hell’s this?”

If any person out there didn’t think Christopher Nolan was ambitious enough, well then, my friend, think again. Because while Nolan may be something of a household name by now, he still doesn’t adhere totally by the mainstream rules and regulations that so many other films out there follow hook, line, and sinker. Whereas some movies like to make their conclusions clear to us right from the very start and still ask us to just enjoy the ride while it lasts, Nolan appreciates throwing us curve-balls that we never totally expect to see coming, nor do we ever think of while we’re watching any movie, not just his. In other words, Christopher Nolan is the type of film-maker who likes to think outside the box, and in a day and age like this, where wonderful film makers seem to by falling by the waist-side, there’s something to behold and honor, rather than spit on and scoff at.

Then again though, not everybody’s perfect. Meaning, neither is Christopher Nolan.

Yes, I know, say it ain’t so! But sorry, it is. Christopher Nolan, while an ambitious film maker that loves to reach for the stars (and literally so on this occasion) with nearly everything he touches with his creative paws, every once and a blue moon (more space puns), hits a brick wall and can’t help but fumble over his own words. Sort of like how I am with cute girls at bars, but that’s a different story, for a different day, people; this is Christopher Nolan’s story here, and for that, it’s really hard to review. Not because the plot can be easily spoiled with even the slightest, teeniest piece of info/detail, but because my thoughts are still in a bit of a jumble, nearly five days after having already seen it.

FIVE DAYS, PEOPLE!!

Anyway, like I was saying before, there’s something to be said for a fella like Nolan who, while not always make perfect sense with everything he does in his movies, especially his later ones, still finds a way to enthrall his audience with enough pretty stuff on screen to keep people’s minds off of some of the more troubling-aspects of his stories. Like, for instance, how in the hell would NASA be capable of building all of these maintainable, trustworthy space ships to not just transport mostly all of the Earth’s population to a different planet, but to do so in an efficient way that doesn’t make everybody jump from being a young, rowdy, and crazy 21-year-old, to being an old, saggy, and beaten-down 88-year-old?

“Who cares though, Dan? Just look at how wonderfully exquisite deep outer-space is?”, I could imagine one of Nolan’s ultra fanboys pleading to me; to which I’d respond with a swift slap to the face and a big, “Well, yeah, you’re right. I guess,” and then I’d hate them forever for making me accept the fact. Because yes, Interstellar’s production design is beautiful in just about every instance. Although I didn’t see this in IMAX or 70mm like I would have wished, there was still plenty to gaze at and just grab a hold of. Because if there’s anything that Nolan cares about the most, it’s the way his movies look, sound, and overall, feel. If they are able to do this in a lovely manner, this his job, for the most part, is done.

"If we can't have corn, then nobody will!"

“If we can’t have corn, then nobody will!”

But that’s not to say that the rest of this movie is bad, it’s just very disappointing. For instance, the first 2/3’s of this movie are well-done, like I usually expect from a Nolan movie. He sets up the characters nice enough to where we get an understandable feel to them; he creates this futuristic world that isn’t too cheesy on the set-designs, but is more or less, just what the Earth looked like in the 1890’s, before all of this damn electricity began running our lives; and hell, though the explanation behind the main conflict is a bit fumbled, I still rolled with it because it seemed simple enough to get invested in. Simply, this is supposed to be a story about a group of astronauts going out into the deep depths of outer-space, hopping from planet to planet, and as usual, running into the occasional problem here and there.

For me, that’s dumbed-down and easy enough that I don’t care about the extraneous amount of sci-fi exposition Nolan decides to throw at me – I just want to be entertained, bedazzled, and feel as if I am apart of something. This is how the first hour or so felt, and that’s why I was totally on-board with this. In a way, I felt as if this was going to be Nolan’s most ambitious yet, but was totally going to pay-off. Maybe, just maybe, it could have been my favorite of his? The same kind of movie that I desperately plead to my fellow friends and confidantes to give another shot and look deeper into it? That’s what it was going to be, I thought.

Sadly, that’s not how it turned out to be.

See, without me saying too much and ruining the experience for all ya’ll out there, I’ll simply state this: Nolan, more often than not, in the later-part of this movie, decides that he doesn’t know how to keep this movie moving long and hard enough to sustain its nearly three-hour run-time. So, to make sure that none of our minds leave the screen, he constantly throws random plot-points, where certain character’s motivations are hardly ever explained, and we’re left to feel some sort of emotional connection to what is happening. Without saying much, certain characters do some pretty mean, distasteful, and downright idiotic things, but rather than feeling as if it’s a genuine mistake for these fully fleshed-out characters, it feels like Nolan’s just throwing whatever he can at the wall, seeing what sticks, and hoping that he hasn’t lost us just yet.

But that’s exactly what happens. He not only loses us, but seems to dig himself deeper and deeper into the conventional hole of storytelling, where not only can the audience see what’s happening from a mile away, but can also say why. To me, this is an absolute disappointment coming from Nolan, the same kind of director who prides himself in being more than just your average, dime-a-dozen director; he’s the imaginative, relatively original imaginary that dares you to second-guess his directorial choices. Here though, it’s all too clear that whatever Nolan’s been doing for his whole career up to now, there’s a slight disconnect. He wants to be the cool, artsy director that challenges the mainstream into using their brains a little bit more, but still falls for the typical cliche that Hollywood has practically mapped-out for every movie to follow.

Honestly, I could harp on this aspect of the movie until the cows come home, but it wouldn’t do neither you, nor me any good; it would only confuse us more. What I do want to say though, that while the movie may get predictable for its last hour-and-a-half, there’s still always something to watch. Whether it’s in the way in how the camera glides so peacefully over a certain landscape of Nolan’s own creation, listening to that pulse-pounding score that isn’t quite over-bearing, but isn’t subtle either, or paying attention the performances from this well-stacked cast who, with what they’re given try their damn near hardest to make it resonate with anybody watching at home.

Speaking of them, I think it’s best for me to remind people that while Nolan’s movie may misfire plenty by the end, the cast always stays decent and hardly ever strays away from being as such. Matthew McConaughey is in his comfort-zone as Cooper, but it’s a comfort-zone that I almost never get tired of, especially when he’s able to make his character a complicated individual that, given what we know about the task he has, we are told to like and root for. It’s easy because McConaughey is such a charming presence and is able to make every line in which his character spouts science gibberish, seem believable.

Something that, ten years ago, probably would have never happened. But thus, we live in a world where the McConaissance is alive and well.

My feelings exactly.

My feelings exactly.

And thank heavens for that, too.

Another one to chat about is Anne Hathaway who is good in her role as another astronaut that Cooper ends up bonding with a bit, but soon begins to get annoying to watch when we realize that Nolan doesn’t have much confidence in this character to make her a reasonable, thoughtful human. Her character not only makes a few life-changing, dumb mistakes, but even has the gull to say that they happened because of “L-O-V-E”. I won’t say who she says this about, or why, but it’s absolutely ludicrous to think that Nolan would ever throw this into a film and it’s just another sign that he needed some sort of help to keep this movie’s train a movin’.

Though, as poorly-written as Hathaway’s character may be, at least she’s given something to do, whereas the rest of the cast is sort of left in the dust. Talented peeps such as Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, Jessica Chastain, David Gyasi, and yes, even Topher Grace, are mostly left in the background for the majority of the movie. And while it’s nice to see their bright and shining faces in such a wonderfully-looking movie, it feels like a waste of some genuine talents that deserve so much more to work with, all credibility aside.

But, at the end of the day, this is a Christopher Nolan movie and what it all really comes down to is this: Do you want to see it in theaters, or not? Personally, I think it’s worth the trip to the theaters, because even while it gets silly by the end, there’s still something stunningly beautiful about this movie that not only compels you enough to pay attention to what’s going on, and even think about what exactly is happening. Even if it doesn’t fully make sense, it’s still making you latch open your brain and do something with it that you maybe haven’t been able to do with many other movies.

And that, my friends, is how Christopher Nolan rolls. For better, and definitely, for worse.

Consensus: Ambitious to a certain fault, Interstellar finds Christopher Nolan grabbing for whatever he can think of next, and while it occasionally works, he falls on his face a bit too many times to make this still feel like something of a disappointment, albeit, a very interesting one that’s worth at least checking out. In the biggest, loudest, and best theaters possible. Trust me.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Uhm. Yeah.

Uhm. Yeah. This happens.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbizGoggle Images

Nightcrawler (2014)

Who says journalism’s dead?!?!

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a strange, rather mysterious man who is just trying to get by in modern-day L.A. Not only does he steal random resources from construction sites, but even has the gall to try and sell them back. However, late one night, when perusing the streets, he stumbles a upon a car-accident, when, moments later, a guy holding a camera (Bill Paxton) shows up and takes Lou’s mind by storm. He tells Lou that there’s actually some money to be made in filming certain accidents/crime scenes and selling them to news agencies, all for a pretty penny. This gets Lou thinking that not only does he need himself some video-equipment, but he also needs a partner to assist him all this, which is when a somewhat homeless guy, Rick (Riz Ahmed), takes the opportunity, although he doesn’t know what to expect next from this job. And thus, begins the process in which Lou captures some important footage, in very sketchy, dangerous ways and selling it to a local TV station, where he actually begins to strike up something of a relationship with the morning news director, Nina (Rene Russo). However, with Lou, not everything seen in the camera, is exactly how it appears to be and in ways, begins to land him in some hot water; not just with the local police, but everybody around him.

In the post-recession world in which we all live in, it seems like anybody’s ready to make a quick buck, by any costs. Meaning that, if you have to lose your morals for a short amount of time, only so that you can get a healthy paycheck, go home, and get something to eat for once, then all is well. No questions will be asked, and surely, none will be given.

Yep. Totally concerned if anybody's alive or not.

Yep. Totally concerned if anybody’s alive or not.

However, in the case of the media, the line is hardly ever blurred. “If it bleeds, it leads”, is a commonly-heard phrase in the world of journalism (also used once in this film, as well), and it certainly is true; if there’s something downright controversial or sick happening, people want to know about it, so long so as it’s not happening to them. Also though, if one can create a story that would, in some form, shape, or nature, illicit fear in the audience’s mind, then all the better. Basically, the world of journalism is a sick and twisted place, and it’s only going to continue to be so.

Take it from one, small-time journalist to tell ya.

But points about the state of journalism isn’t totally what writer/director Dan Gilroy is all about exploring – sure, he shows us that news agencies mostly what the richest, juiciest story, by any means necessary, but there’s no stance Gilroy takes and seems to run wild with practically with the whole time. Instead, we get a glimpse into the mind of a person who, quite frankly, is just trying to make a name for himself in a world that, quite frankly, is willing to make anybody “famous”.

And this here, is where the strengths of Nightcrawler really shows, folks. Gilroy gives us as much as we need to know about this character of Lou Bloom, but not just by telling us through background info, or constant flash-backs; much rather, we just view how this guy acts in day-to-day life. There’s something odd and definitely off about this Lou Bloom fella, but the way in how he approaches every business conversation is, at the very least, perfectly professional. Sometimes though, it’s so obvious he’s just saying what he read in some cheesy, self-help pamphlet that you wonder if he’s actually kidding around with whomever he’s reading these lines, too.

But that’s what’s so eerie about Lou Bloom – he isn’t. In fact, the guy’s dead serious about everything he says, does, or wants to happen, so that he can not only get more money, but have as much power as he can possibly imagine. Which, trust me, from the first glimpse we get of this guy in a construction-field, is totally surprising. You never, not in a million years, would expect someone who looks or acts like Lou Bloom to have such a dedicated, passionate mind when it comes to getting a certain job done, and reaping of all the possible benefits, but he totally is.

Not only is it believable because of the world Lou Bloom associates himself with (i.e. video-journalism), but because Jake Gyllenhaal is so magnificent in this role, it’s damn near impossible to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on-screen.

Which is, yes, basically, the entire movie.

It’s a pretty common-known fact by now that, despite a few hiccups in his long-fledged movie-career, Gyllenhaal is a solid, dependable actor who, when you need him to, can deliver on just about anything you ask of him. Now, I’m not so sure Gilroy totally needed Gyllenhaal to lose 20 pounds for this role, but it works for the character in every way imaginable. It not only makes him look like a small, weaselly character that you can’t trust to be around, but allows for Gyllenhaal’s bugged-out eyes to constantly pop-out and make it seem as if they’re carrying most of his body-weight.

But lbs.-loss aside, Gyllenhaal is great here because he always demands our attention, without ever going full out and exclaiming it. Despite one corny scene in which we see him yell and break a mirror, Lou Bloom is a subdued character that definitely has emotions, but doesn’t express them as you or I. He keeps to himself and whenever he’s upset, happy, or simply trying to get his way, he tells you, but without hardly ever changing the look on his face. Gyllenhaal’s creepy in the kind of way that he feels like you wouldn’t just meet him on the street, but even possibly at a family-engagement – calm, cool, collective, and full of all sorts of chatter when you look at him, but dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find a truly cruel, dark individual who, simply put, just doesn’t care what you think about him, or the decisions he makes. As long as he gets what he wants by the end of the day, then all is fine in his world.

The future faces of L.A. Except, let's hope not, because it would be an even scarier place to live in.

The future faces of L.A. Except, let’s hope not, because it would be an even scarier place to live in.

To me, that’s more terrifying than any Patrick Bateman or Travis Bickle. Although, to their defenses, they’re still both incredibly creepy individuals.

And though Gyllenhaal is amazing here in a role I hope earns him a nomination come early next year, he’s not the only one in this film worth chatting about. Rene Russo (Gilroy’s real-life wife) is great in a role that I wasn’t expecting her to be so great in. She plays this aging news producer by the name of Nina and seems like she’s been in the biz long enough, that she’s not only had to deal with it all, but seen it all, too. Therefore, you think she’d be safe enough to cozy up in her job and just wait till retirement – until you realize that that’s very far from the truth. In fact, Nina’s the kind of woman who, even with her experience, still feels like her job is constantly on the line, making her feel as if she needs the best break for her to get out of that slump and be looked at as “needed” once again.

It’s a very meaty role for Russo, the kind of role I haven’t seen her do in quite some time and it’s one that I hope she makes a habit of constantly trying to play with. Because even though you want to despise her for constantly pushing Bloom on and on to get deeper and deeper into these crime-based stories, you still know that, if you were in her position, you’d do the same. So, it’s kind of hard to judge, especially considering that it doesn’t matter how experienced you may think you are in the current position you hold – you’re always expendable.

And that, my friends, is some advice to live by for the rest of your days.

Goodnight. And most of all, good fuckin’ luck.

Consensus: Anchored by two phenomenal performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, Nightcrawler isn’t just exciting in its portrayal of the underground, seedy world of journalism, but also a reminder that any person, when given the chance to make a name for themselves, will do so, by any means necessary.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The face of a champion, folks. You best believe it.

The face of a champion, folks. You best believe it.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Red Eye (2005)

Take the early flights. They always go by without a problem.

Lisa Reisart (Rachel McAdams) is a very busy girl who, when she’s not juggling time as the manager of very high-end hotel, is trying to keep up-to-speed with her dad and the rest of her family. However, she gets the sad news that her Grand-mom has just died and makes plans to flight out there to see her dad, as well as the funeral itself. Lisa gets on the plane without many problems, and it’s made even better by the fact that she’s met a guy (Cillian Murphy), who is quite charming in his own way. As they continue talking and the vodka gets consumed, Lisa begins to find out more and more about this mysterious man she just met at an airport and begins to realize that he met her for a reason; a reason that not only concerns her life, but a loved-one of hers as well.

More movies like Red Eye should be made nowadays. Why do I say that? It’s all pretty simple: It’s an 85-minute thriller, that is practically shot in real-time, features an understandable premise, keeps to it, and has us involved just about every step of the way. That’s why.

That said, it’s not a very sophisticated movie meant for heavy-thinkers, or for people who like to hold up each and every movie to some sort of cultural-significance of some sort; it’s the type of movie that you sit down, with or without others around you, get a bag of popcorn, watch, and just enjoy the hell out of. It’s not on the screen for a long time, so it’s almost impossible to get bored. And if you do, then I hate to say that you’re just not human.

That's how it starts: Two young, attractive people share the same attraction of being attracted to young, attractive people.

That’s how it starts: Two young, attractive people share the same attraction of being attracted to young, attractive people.

Then again though, I’ve been accused of the same thing too, so you’re not alone if that’s the case. What is the case here is that this is surprisingly directed from Wes Craven, which is “surprising” because it’s not necessarily a horror flick. Granted, Craven has dipped his pen into some “different” genre flicks before that weren’t just about Freddy Kruger or serial-rapists in the woods, but this one interested me because it had all of the conventions of what would set-up a very good horror flick, but decided to keep it at base with a thriller-approach.

For instance, the baddie here isn’t just a psycho who wants blood as the main course of his meal, or even craves human-flesh as a side-dish; instead, he’s more or less a terrorist that has a plan, is going to stick to it, and may even hold up his own end of the bargain. In that sense, Craven keeps the villain very humane, even if he is a totally evil son-of-a-bitch. Almost the type of evil son-of-a-bitch you could meet on the street, or, dare I say it, THE AIRPORT!!!

But what Craven does with this material is fun and great because he seems to really enjoy playing with the conventions of what we expect from a normal, run-of-the-mill thriller, as well as playing with us, the audience. Events in this movie that we expect to happen in our own mind-sets, sometimes don’t happen exactly the way we have as planned. And when they do, it actually feels deserved, rather than obvious or cliché. It almost feels as if Craven himself knows the ground-work that needs to be made for a good thriller, even if he doesn’t care to follow all of the steps that would make it differentiate from lesser-flicks of the same genre he’s toying with.

Basically, watching Craven do what he does best is a joyous time, no matter how you see it.

Is there anything really deeper or more thought-provoking to this material? Maybe. Much to my surprise, I found there to be a lot of post-9/11 paranoia here that made the flick seemed like it was trying to say more, but maybe it was just my imagination. It most likely was, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if Craven decided to throw some hints and clues in there as well. The guy surely is cheeky and even though this flick doesn’t play out in the type of tongue-in-cheek way most of his flicks surprisingly do, he keeps it just serious enough to be taken in as an actual thriller, with high-stakes involved, as well as just goofy and light enough to where you feel yourself thrilled by every move some character makes, whether it be a drastic or a regular one. Seriously, I was on board the whole time, and that’s really saying something for a movie as bare as this.

Swear to God, any of you a-holes run that fine specimen over, there's going to be some hell to pay.

Swear to God, any of you a-holes run that fine specimen over, there’s going to be some hell to pay.

Most of the credit does have to go to it’s two main stars here, especially considering that the whole movie is all about them, pretty much all of the time. Rachel McAdams plays pretty much two emotions the whole film (anger and fear), however, she handles both of them like a champ and gives us a character that’s smarter than she appears to be, especially when she’s thrown up in a corner at times, both literally and figuratively. She has a type of presence to her that makes her sweet and sassy, but also very knowing of her surroundings and watching her performance here makes me wish she made better decisions with her career as of late, rather than just trying to be “the next Julia Roberts” as some have touted her as being, I don’t quite see it, but hey, that’s just me. Take it or leave it.

As for Cillian Murphy, well, the dude’s been pretty much doing the same thing with his career ever since he first started out and it shows no problems whatsoever, mainly because he’s actually good at playing these slight odd, off-kilter types with an ounce of craziness in their systems. Murphy’s good here because he keeps you guessing, especially since you don’t quite have a full idea of what his plan’s going to fully be up until the final five minutes, and that’s why he’s so watchable. He’s a bad dude, that’s for sure, but he’s an interesting one and I think that’s more of a credit to Murphy’s acting skills, than the script itself, as minor as it is.

Consensus: The thriller-genre wasn’t shaken-up by Red Eye and it never will be, but it sure as hell is still worth the watch because it’s fun, quick, suspenseful, unpredictable in spots, well-acted by both McAdams and Murphy who command the screen as well as your attention, and shows one of the greats at the top of his “playful game”.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Too soon?

Ergh. Too soon, possibly?

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Manhunter (1986)

No eating of fava beans or Chianti’s here.

A sicko family-killer nicknamed “The Toothfairy” (Tom Noonan) is running wild and loose, and it’s up to retired-cop, Graham (William Petersen), to find out who this guy is exactly is, where he’s at, cuff him, and lock the son of a bitch away for good. The problem is that this killer is a lot smarter and trickier to find than he’s usually used to, which is saying a lot for the guy who locked away Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox) for good.

Okay, here’s the thing: Everybody knows the story of Hannibal Lecter because of the 1991 flick, but, believe it or not, this one came before and actually let the world know of the flesh-eating intellectual that is Dr. Lecter. This movie is rarely ever mentioned in today’s day and age of thrillers, especially ones with the character of Lecter involved, but it was one of the first and best examples of how you can put a serial-killer and cop-procedural together, and make them mesh so well.

And it’s all thanks to Michael Mann, who practically ushered in a wave of thousands-upon-thousands of shows that remind us that, yes, DNA is everywhere.

If you know Michael Mann, or have at least ever seen a Michael Mann flick, then you definitely the guy ain’t one bit of shy when it comes to showing how stylish he can be and how much he doesn’t care what you think. For some (such as myself), the style can get a bit over-bearing at times, but for a flick like this that seemed like it needed it to spice things up, then I was all aboard and not a tad bit pissed-off. Okay, that’s a lie. Some parts had me instantly pissed because of the corny, 80’s-synth, over-dramatic line-delivery, and foreshadowing of colors in the background or somewhere in each shot, but that just comes with the package when you put Michael Mann and the 80’s together. You gotta get used to it after awhile, which is what I did, much against my initial taste test.

There's a metaphor in here somewhere.

There’s a metaphor in here somewhere. Just look for the color blue, if you can spot it.

Mann’s direction is one of the key aspects to making this movie so great because he continually builds up tension and suspense, yet, never makes it seem like the story/case is ever going to be fully solved. He puts the detectives in the running-spot for completion, but somehow, the killer always seems one step ahead no matter what. You also actually get to feel for these cops because they aren’t dirty a-holes that can’t help but screw things over for others because they’ve got nothing else better to do. Nope, instead, they are just regular, everyday people, who have a job to do, families back at home, and will stop at nothing to complete their tasks and make the world a whole lot nicer, safer place to be in. In today’s day and age where we get some sort of crooked cop in almost every crime movie we see, it’s quite refreshing to see what it was like when we loved our men with badges, and didn’t think of them as scum who love donuts and pulling you over after curfew. Doesn’t mean I still don’t have beef with some of them, but hey, at least my gratitude was with these guys for the longest time, in all hopes that they would get this killer.

However, it’s a pretty hard decision to make, especially when you have a villain that is this cool, this smart, this sinister, and this creepy.

That’s all thanks to Tom Noonan who is not only insanely freaky as the Red Dragon, but intimidating as well. The guy’s got that lanky-build to him where he’s a towering-figure, but skinny to the point of where he looks like a living, breathing, and walking straw. And his looks? Well, let’s just say that Tom Noonan is the sexiest person in the planet, but that’s not a bad thing at all, because it works in his favor by making us more scared by the dude. Not only does he seem like he knows what he’s doing, but also knows how to send a message that he’s not be screwed around with either. Need an example? Try that scene where finds the reporter and tells him a little bit about himself; a scene I’m not going to go on about anymore, because it’s tense, heavy, and shocking, all at once and perfect at declaring the kind of individual we’re working with here.

Also, a lot of the credit for such a bad-ass villain has to go back to Mann, because the guy never over-exposes our villain at all. It isn’t almost until the half-way mark that we get our first glimpse at the guy, and even that’s not saying much since it’s only five minutes of him being a creep-o and getting involved in weird shenanigans. It’s an effective five minutes though, and actually makes you feel like this guy is never going to be found, no matter how hard these cops may try. You actually start to give up hope at one point, depending on the type of person you are, and almost come to the reality that the Red Dragon is going to get away with it all, and evil laugh his way into more murderous-pleasures.

Does that count as wearing women's clothing?

Does that count as wearing women’s clothing?

However, when you stand in the way of William Petersen – not everything’s going to be so easy. Peterson is a nice fit as our main detective here, because the guy has a lot going for him to where we understand the problems that may occur in his personal life, as well as his work life when he has to do such a thing as get in the minds of the serial-killers he’s chasing after. But the guy never seems like he’s losing it to the point of where we question him, his skills, or his determination catch this killer and put all of the murders to rest. Petersen does over-act at times and it seems like just another case of bad writing, equals bad performance, but overall, the guy had me cheering for him in the end, even if it was a hard choice between him and Noonan. Both are great, even if they aren’t together on-screen for very long. Still, got to love when the film just builds up to the meeting between two, opposite forces, and absolutely delivers like this flick does.

The best of the rest is definitely Brian Cox as everybody’s favorite charmer, Hannibal Lecter. Cox isn’t playing the role we all know Anthony Hopkins for, but is giving us his own impression of him, with a few tinkers here and there. With just the short-amount of screen-time, we see how he operates, how he thinks, how smart he is, and how he’s not to be trusted no matter what he may say or do to you that could be considered nice or humane. Cox owns every scene he has and keeps this presence throughout the whole movie, even when he isn’t around. Having a double-threat like Noonan and Cox together was awesome, and just gave me more faith in the baddies, rather than the goodies.

Consensus: As with most films from the ultra-cool decade of the 80’s, Manhunter suffers from some cheese-tastic moments, but ultimately kicks some fine ass when it comes to building up an air of mystery, tension, suspense, and a feeling that you don’t know who’s going to come out of this alive, dead, or barely scratched.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I want to eat you."

“I’m building up an appetite already.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Pride (2014)

Just be yourself, drag and all.

It’s 1984 and in the UK, a lot of people are angry. Most importantly though, the miners. They feel as if they are not being paid enough, or represented like they should be, so therefore, they decide to start up a strike and get their voices heard. Another group who demand the same are a bunch of prideful and accepting homosexuals who, much rather than being spit on, mocked and ignored, decide that if they’re going to get what they want, they have to go out and join another group who wants the same thing as they do. This is when the young leader of the group, Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), coins the name for the campaign, “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” (LGSM). Though, of course, once the miners themselves find out who the group is, they deny them and want nothing to do with them. But thinking on their feet, the LGSM decide to travel out to another group of on-strike miners in a small village in Wales where, at first, they get all sorts of strange looks and stares. Eventually though, most of the town begins to warm up to the group and they all become a family of sorts. But like with most families, there’s always going to be problems and it just so happens that the LGSM may not be ready for all the ones standing in the way of getting what they want: To be heard and understood.

The general idea surrounding most movies that concern a certain group of people/persons, usually is, if you aren’t in the same demographic as the people being depicted on the screen, then you have nothing to relate to. “Because you aren’t black, means that you can’t relate or at least sympathize with a slave,” is something I casually hear in angry, shout-filled arguments about movies that I try to stay away from, and it ticks me off. Not only is it wrong, but I even have a solution to that idea, in a way to shut all the naysayers up for the rest of their days: I’m a human being, isn’t that enough?

McNulty's back! And now he's pretending to be Omar!

McNulty’s back! And now he’s pretending to be Omar!

And that’s exactly the kind of idea I had in my head while watching Pride – sure, I myself am not a gay man, but I know what it feels like to want to be heard and understood, even if it was just through a simple disagreement I’ve had with a family-member or co-worker. Maybe that’s wrong of me to compare the exchange of words I may have with someone in a day in my life, to the plight of all gay and lesbian people out there across the globe, but to me, it feels necessary. Not only did it have me sympathize with just about everyone here, but it also made me realize that this is how I’m supposed to feel.

Another general idea to go along with the one I presented up about two paragraphs ago, is that it’s hard for one to enjoy a movie that’s so limited in its audience-appeal; being a film-goer/lover, I know this to be especially false. As long as the material is presented to me in a way that I can enjoy, or at least find somewhat interesting, I don’t care if you have a story about stomping possums for an-hour-and-a-half; just give me something good, and I’ll roll with it. And that’s why a movie like Pride worked for me – I didn’t need to enjoy it only by being gay, but by appreciating a good, well put-together movie when I see one.

And in case you couldn’t tell by now, Pride is a good, well put-together movie. Which surprised me because, after seeing the trailer, I expected this to be nothing more than a manipulative, feel-goody tale about a group of outspoken people that stood up and got their voices heard that we usually see hit the cinema screens, but thankfully, that’s not how it was. Well, at least not totally, anyway. The problem with Pride is that it can get a bit sappy at times and rather than trying to be subtle with what it’s trying to get across about every man, woman, and being on this planet just sticking together and loving one another, regardless of gender, race, or sexual-preference, it hits you right over-the-head. Especially on more than a few occasions.

But, then again, there is something to be said for a movie that presents a lot of these moments in an over-the-top, preachy-way, yet, still somehow works and is able to put a smile on your face.

Take, for instance, a scene in which Dominic West’s character, Jonathan Blake, decides to break the ice at a benefit for the group by dancing all over the dance floor, flaunting it like nobody’s bizz, and letting pretty much everybody in the venue know, yep, he’s gay. This burst of dance obviously gets everybody else involved and all hyped-up, but it’s not just the gays and lesbians who join in on the fun – there’s actually two very straight, very masculine miner-boys who, throughout the whole movie prior to this, kept their distance from the homosexuals, but now, realizes that looking flamboyant and, overall, being a good dancer, attracts a whole bunch of horny, hot woman, who are just looking to grope the next best dancer they can find who isn’t named Usher (mind you, this was before Yeah!, but you catch my drift). So obviously, they decide to be actual friends with the group that’s supporting them, in hopes that they’ll get all the dancing-lessons they oh so desire.

Is this corny? You betcha! But is it also slightly lovely to see two different sides of society, come together, all in the name of dance? Oh, definitely and that’s how mostly all of Pride is. It’s corny, but sometimes, so corny that you can’t help but fall in love with its inherent corniness and even mistaken it for “having charm”. Which was fine to me, because the movie presents us with enough rich and tender dramatic moments that tell us how hard it truly was for each of these people to get disrespected because of who they were, to go along with the happy-go-lucky ones where everybody’s smiling, drinking, sexxing, and just overall, having a grand time.

Oh, those daft old ladies laughing makes my stomach warm up. And also want tea.

Oh, those daft old ladies laughing makes my stomach warm up. And also want tea.

Oh, and they’re dancing, too, but I think I’ve made that clear enough by now.

And though the movie can get deep a couple of times, especially when it talks about the oncoming scare of HIV and how nobody’s really doing anything to stop it from wiping out just about everybody it infects, it still doesn’t want to take us away from the fact that this is a sweet, simple story, that hardly ever rings a false note. Sure, there’s a couple of villainous-homophobes that were literally a mustache-twirl away from going full Bond, but even they seemed like they had reasons for being so against same-sex relationships, as misguided as they may have been. Same even goes for the townspeople who eventually grow to like the gays and lesbians; they have clear, understandable intentions for wanting to help their cause, yet, still not totally be thrown for a loop in terms of what they want in life. All they really want to do is lend a helping hand to people who seem like they need it the most, which, to me, isn’t just the real beauty and crowd-cheering praise I can give this movie, but to humanity as a whole.

Okay, now I’m getting sappy.

Consensus: By not trying to be anything it’s not, Pride feels like the sort of feel-good, pick-me-upper that deserves to be seen by anybody who wants to laugh, tear-up a bit, and at the end of the day, feel good about living in the world that we do, where humans inherently feel the need to do the right thing.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Not 80's enough.

Not 80’s enough. Needs more colored mo-hawks.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fury (2014)

I guess something that weighs over 30 tons isn’t all that safe after all.

It’s April 1945 in Nazi Germany, towards the end of WWII and the Allies seem to be kicking all sorts of ass and taking names. So much so, that Adolf Hitler himself has been ordering just about every man, women, and/or child, to get out there on the front lines and fight the good fight. And during all of this, therein lies a tank crew who maintain and work in a big mofo they call “Fury”. The tank sergeant is a man that goes by the name of Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) and just recently, finds himself all torn up over the fact that his second-in-command has just been blown away in the middle of combat. He still has the rest of his crew intact, but this proves to be such a hard hit, that he doesn’t know necessarily how to move on. Well, except all that he and his crew have to do is fight, fight, and fight some more. This time though, they’ll be along for the ride with a newbie by the name of Cobb (Logan Lerman) who nobody really takes a liking to and with good reason: He’s never been on the battlefield before and doesn’t know if he can handle killing other people that haven’t done anything specifically to him. Throughout the next week or so, that may change and Wardaddy will be more than happy to show him why.

There’s something of a plot to be found here in Fury, but honestly, what it all comes down to is “Brad Pitt and a bunch of his fellas go around Germany, shooting and killing people.” While that sounds somewhat repetitive and ultimately, boring, there’s a feeling here that writer/director David Ayer is using it for a whole other reason in particular.

For instance, it’s never made clear to us what exactly the objective here of this story is; usually for a war movie, we understand who is searching for what, why, how they’re going to go about it, and what is going to be accomplished at the end of the day. However, here, the only objective of the plot-line is to fight the war, continue killing the enemy, and try to do so without getting you, or your fellow soldier killed in the process.

Looking that good, can sometimes be so tiring.

Looking that good, can sometimes be so tiring.

In all honesty, that’s more of how the war probably is. there’s no need to save any Private Ryan’s, or even any plan to capture top-level Mogadishu-officials. Here, it’s all about trying to stay alive and killing as many Germans as they possibly can, which is probably just how being in a bloody war is like – hardly ever stopping and always fighting. This is a bold move on Ayer’s part to take, but it’s one that I think needed to be taking, because so rarely is it that we get a war movie that shows us just how screwed up and unforgiving the battlefield truly is, without trying to force a message down our throats. Here, you could say that the moral of the story is, “the war is terrible, and people die.” That’s all Ayer seems to be saying here and I think that’s all that needed to be said.

But of course Ayer takes it a bit of another step forward and actually get to discussing the certain soldiers in the war, by showing us just the type of disturbing affect the war has on them, regardless of how messed-up in the head the individual may be. This is where I think Ayer’s writing is at its best, because rather than glamorizing these soldiers and having them come off as the Nation’s biggest heroes, Ayer has them portrayed as a bunch of guys who had nothing else better to give to society back in the States, other than just sitting around and taking up space. On the battlefield, they have a purpose, they have a cause, and most of all, they have a reason to live. Though we never actually hear a character state this throughout the film, they don’t really have to for us to get the point; in fact, them just stating every so often that being in the war was, “the best job they ever had”, gives us the impression that this is all they have to live for and they’re more than proud to die if they have to. They may be scared, but they’ll at least feel proud to perish because it’s for a reason, even if that reason is for their own well-being.

And though I may make this movie come off as a bit of a melodrama, I can assure you that it’s not; there are moments of pure drama where characters break down, shout their hearts out, and let us know how they feel. However, at the end of the day, it’s a war movie, and because of this, we get plenty of action-sequences with tanks going toe-to-toe with another, people getting shot, stabbed in the face, lit on fire, and most of all, dying. But while these scenes are effective in the most gruesome ways possible, there’s still a feeling that the movie doesn’t know what it wants to say about them – are we supposed to feel bad that countless soldiers on both sides are getting killed? Or are we just supposed to care that way for the American side?

The best example to highlight this problem the movie seems to have with itself is when Cobb, the new blood of this tank group, is ordered by Wardaddy to shoot a German prisoner. Though the German prisoner has surrendered (thus, making it illegal to kill him), Cobb is physically and emotionally manipulated into doing it, even though it is a horrifying act he does not want to partake in. We know it’s not right, he knows it’s not right, but every other character around him (as well as the movie), doesn’t and that’s one of the sole problems with this movie. It doesn’t have enough to say to be an anti-war movie, yet, it doesn’t have enough self-control to not glamorize the violent, sometimes inhumane, acts that occur during the war itself.

Basically, you could write it all down to Ayer not being the best director out there. Sure, as a writer, he’s pretty fine and has shown that he has a knack for writing gritty, raw, and bare human beings who are conscience enough to be considered “realistic”, but as a director, his movies don’t always translate so well. End of Watch was a fine piece that showed he was able to turn the found-footage genre on its head a bit, but that’s about all the praise Ayer gets as a director (his other film released earlier this year, Sabotage, is currently running the gauntlet for being one of my least favorite of the year). That said, while this is probably Ayer’s most accomplished film as director, there’s still signs that what comes out of the pen, doesn’t always translate so well onto the screen, even if the one writing, also happens to be the same individual filming.

Thankfully though, for Ayer at least, he can fall back on the amazing ensemble he has here to ensure that his material will be more than just what’s presented on the surface, and can at least be dissected and looked at a bit more. Brad Pitt, playing a WWII soldier that isn’t collecting Nazi scalps, does a lot as Wardaddy, although it seems like he’s just being his usual-self: Cool, smart, collective, and most of all, masculine as hell. However, there’s more to this character and we get the idea that even though he’s all about defending his country to the very end and do whatever he has to do to protect those around him, at any costs, he still fears the idea of dying, or even worse, a close-one of his meeting the same fate. He’s an emotionally-battered man that disguises it all with orders, commands, and death, but if you look closely, you can see exactly what kind of person he is, and it’s not all that different from you or I.

That's the look of someone who has maybe gone too method.

That’s the look of someone who has maybe gone “too method”.

Except that he looks like this, a sad reality I live with everyday I look in the mirror.

But as good as Pitt is in the lead role, I really have to give a lot of kudos to Logan Lerman, a young talent who is really rising through the ranks and showing us he has what it takes to hang with the big boys. Though Lerman’s character can be classified as “scared, wimp-ish rookie”, Lerman presents us with shades to this character that makes it easy to see why someone as sheepish and kind as he is, would actually totally change into a ruthless, unforgiving killer. It’s actually pretty horrifying if you think about it, and that is why Lerman’s performance is so good: He’s a normal person like you or me, but now it’s time for him to grow up, face the terrible realities of the war, and start shooting that rifle of his.

Though, as good as Lerman and Pitt are, there is a glaring difference between them two, and the attention they get from Ayer, as opposed to the characters played by Michael Peña, Shia LaBeouf and Jon Bernthal, who all seem like types that want to be more than just that, but never get a chance to cause the writing prohibits them from doing so. However, because these three are all good performers, we get a deeper, more effective camaraderie between the whole group that seems to go further than just “war buddies”; they could actually be something of brothers, that just so happen to be connected by the reality of war.

One instance of this is a scene that, for some reason or another, takes place all in real-time and runs for about twenty-five minutes. It starts with Wardaddy and Cobb going into a random German woman’s home, having dinner and sex, but turns into something darker and tense once the rest of the group shows up. This is a great scene because it not only shows the restraint in Ayer’s sometimes confused direction, but actually allows all of these guys to just act with one another, in one scene, one location, and uninterrupted. In this scene, we get to understand who all of these fellas are, why they stick up for one another when they have to, and why they all love each other, in the most non-sexual way possible. It’s probably the most memorable scene of the movie, which is probably a testament to the cast, especially when you consider how much blood, guts, bullets and steel are flying around.

Consensus: Maybe not the deepest war movie ever made, Fury doesn’t know where it stands on certain ideas, but is still well-acted by its highly-capable cast and displays a growing talent in David Ayer as a director, even if there is some room for improvement to be made.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

#2MasculineForYou

#2MasculineForYou

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Kill the Messenger (2014)

What’s a newspaper?

Middle-aged journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) isn’t necessarily the type of writer who searches for a big story, but if it ever comes his way, he’ll more than likely take the opportunity to jump on it right away. That’s why when Webb stumbles upon a lead that may take him all the way to uncovering that the CIA channeled drugs through the U.S., he gets on top of it right away, interviewing possible sources, even if that includes him taking trips out to to the villages of Nicaragua and putting his life on the line. However, Webb is a true journalist and will do anything to make his story the best possible one out there and for all of the world to see, which is exactly what happens. It gets his name known, story re-published in larger, much more respected news outlets, face on TV, and even an award for “Year’s Best Journalist”. Everything looks wonderful for Webb’s life and career, that is, until the government actually gets involved and starts putting pressure on him, as well as his news publication to stop pursuing the story any further, or else. This leaves Webb at a stand-still: Continue following the story his career was made for and lose everything he has, or, listen to what the government demands so that he can live a normal, comfortable life, like everything was before all this press? Decisions, decisions.

There’s certain movies that, to me, may speak volumes, while to others, may not at all. I understand this because while most critics out there like to say that they “have no bias” when it comes to reviewing a certain movie, from a certain creator, on a certain subject, the fact is, we are all biased. Which isn’t a problem, it’s just a fact of life that every human being has deep down inside themselves, regardless of if they want to admit or not.

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm...

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm…

The reason why I say this, is because a movie like Kill the Messenger is made exactly for me: A movie about an respectable journalist, taking place in a time when journalists truly did matter to the mainstream media, and doing what most journalists do, day in and day out. I too, am an aspiring journalist and while I do realize that the world is starting to need fewer and fewer of them, it’s still a profession I love and will continue to pursue until the day I die, regardless of if I have a job in the field or not. So yeah, as you could probably tell by my statement, that this is the movie for me.

That said, I do realize that not every movie out there that works for me, won’t work for others and while I do want to jump into this movie head-on and talk about Webb, his practice, and how he, the real-life figure, makes me happy to be an aspiring journalist, I have to judge the movie on its merits. Merits which, mind you, may be a bit fuzzy to me and my inner-bias.

Sorry, people. I’m only human, after all.

But as I was saying, Kill the Messenger is a pretty typical biopic; while it definitely tries to shy away from being by-the-notes, it hardly ever flies away from this convention and just tells its story like how it was presented to us. Which isn’t a bad thing, because if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it, and such is the case here. Webb’s story, as is, is an interesting one that doesn’t need to go through any interesting, yet shocking, twists to liven things up – all it needs to do is be told to us as it was, with every bit of information known about who he was and the controversy that surrounded a good portion of his life. Sort of like an article as is, but I won’t go on any further about that!

Anyway, director Michael Cuesta, while not necessarily the most flashy director in the world, doesn’t need to be so because the strength of the movie is in the real-life story itself. Of course with most of these biopics, there’s always the wonder of how much we are seeing presented on screen is actually how it happened, or how much is just made for the sake of making the movie entertaining, but for the most part, I couldn’t find any punches pulled by Cuesta. Even if there were any, they were so thinly-done, that it was hard for me to notice and hardly ever took me away from the real strength of this movie, which was the character of Gary Webb himself. But most of all, the actor portraying him: Jeremy Renner.

By now, within in the past five years of seeing the Hurt Locker, I think the world has come to realize that Jeremy Renner is a wonderful actor that’s more than capable of handling a movie on his own (for some of us, it may have been earlier, but you know, I’m talking about the mainstream audience here, you hipsters). So for him to be involved with a biopic such as this, it made me interested in seeing just how far he could go into making us see him as somebody, and not just him playing somebody. And honestly, it’s impressive how well-suited for this role Renner is; though we don’t know all that much about Webb, the real-life person, what we see from how Renner plays him, we get the idea that he was a sweet and lovable, yet also troubled, family man. Because Renner has such a charming screen-presence, there’s an idea that he gets along with practically anybody he’s around and doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to telling it like he sees it. Which is, once again, all thanks to Renner’s wonderful performance that may not get a lot of press, but definitely should, because it’s probably his strongest since the previously-mentioned Locker.

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Really?

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Didn’t see that coming!

But what Renner, as well as the movie, tells us about Webb is that he was a hard-worker, who stuck to his journalistic guns, even when it seemed like, for the well-being of everyone around him, he shouldn’t have. However, that’s what brings us to the main dilemma that the movie discusses: How far should a journalist go to pursue a story? Should they go in so deep that they practically abandon those who love and count on him/her for support? Or, should they create their story and jump off of it right before the story itself gets all sort of unwanted press?  This, to some, may seem like an obvious point made by many other movies concerning the world of journalism, but to me, a fellow journalist, is a problem I struggle with everyday. Not because I myself am throwing myself right into these highly controversial stories that could put my life on the line, but more because that could definitely happen some day. A person could easily read a story of mine that they don’t like and could decide to take matters into their own hands, which, I know, sounds barbaric, but crazier things have happened, people.

But enough about me, because while I found a way to connect to this movie with my own journalist-mind intact, I think the real wonder of this movie that makes it easy for almost anybody to appreciate is that it gives a glimpse into the life of a man not many people discuss or even know about much anymore. Webb, while seeming like a slightly troubled-fella, really did love his job, but most of all, loved discovering and unraveling the truth about those in power and all of the wrong-doings they were committed. Which is why it’s sad to see not just his family begin to bail on him once this story gets too hot, but also his publication that doesn’t want to be involved with a journalist who may, or may not be, good for their image.

It says something about journalism as a whole, but also says something about how this man, Gary Webb, truly did want people to know that he was telling the truth just about every step of the way. But that it only takes a few of those in power, to be angry, and make sure that whatever skeletons they have in their closet, stays put. It sucks, but it’s a reality and it was inspiring to see someone like Webb stand up for himself, even when it was the riskiest choice he could make.

Even if I was the only one who felt it.

Consensus: Kill the Messenger isn’t just a testament to the legend of Gary Webb and his journalistic pursuit to discovering the truth, but also to journalism as a whole, and presents plenty of strong questions, with hardly any answers. The way it’s supposed to be told.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Night Moves (2014)

Hug a tree next time, kid.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Deena (Dakota Fanning) are two environmentalists who want to make something of a difference. So, they decide, as one does when an environmentalist has radical beliefs, to blow up a dam. However, they know very little about actually lighting explosives big enough to blow up an actual, life-sized dam, which is why they decide to hit up ex-Marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard); somebody who has been long-time friends with Josh and may have his eye on Deena. Anyway, after much planning, speculation, and talking, the three decide to go through with the plan of blowing up the dam and on the way, they run into problems here and there. But since this is what they believe in the most, they’re going to stick to their initial plans, no matter how many odds are stacked-up against them. That is, until they realize that they may be doing the wrong thing to begin with.

In all honesty, that plot-synopsis is a bit of a cheat. Though I definitely want to inform you all of what this movie’s actually about, it’s hard for me to really actually go into all of it because most of what happens in this movie (and basically, all you need to know) occurs in the first half-hour. And mind you, this is a near two-hour film, so for all of the action and whatnot to happen in the first act, isn’t just surprising, it’s downright unbelievable.

But that is exactly what we have here with Night Moves and honestly, I wouldn’t expect much different from writer/director Kelly Reichardt, somebody who, if you don’t already know of by now, doesn’t totally like to play by the rules/conventions of what the rest of the movie world sets out for others to follow suit.

"So...uhm...you in the mood for breakfast or anything?"

“So…uhm…you in the mood for breakfast or anything?”

However, it’s not just about how Reichardt places what is, essentially, the climax at the beginning of the film that makes it so unique to watch, it’s more of how she allows her characters to speak like natural human-beings. Which any person who has ever tried their hand or two at writing a script will tell you: Writing how typical people actually talk, is nearly impossible. Actually, that’s a lie, because there are a few writers out there who are able to do so (early Kevin Smith films come to my delinquent mind), but it’s a difficult task and more often than not, the characters can come off as if they’re trying so hard to be real and raw like actual humans, that it’s phony.

But for someone like Kelly Reichardt, it seems and feels so effortless. Not only does she write her characters in a slightly vague way that we have to search beneath each and everything that they say, to just get an understanding of who they are as people, but she also allows them to tell us something about themselves in the way they carry on their bits of silence. Sure, some people may call this a form of “laziness”, or just a director relying on a trick that’s been used for years and years to show us the inner-feelings of character, but when I look at it, especially in the way that Reichardt uses silence, I feel as if this is how real life would play out.

So very often do we get movies where characters just sit down, in silence, and hardly utter a peep. And hell, even if they do utter a peep or two, they don’t constantly sound like the wittiest human beings god has ever put on this Earth. Sometimes, they’re just like us and when they don’t have anything smart to say, they don’t say anything – and even if they do, they know when to shut up right away. This how I like to view each and everyone of Reichardt’s movies: Typical interactions between human beings that you yourself could actually stumble upon in the vast landscape out there that is Earth.

Sure, the people she may present in her films are a bit more attractive than say your or I, but somehow, through the way in which Reichardt’s script is written, they seem almost too real.

Take for instance the character of Josh, played so wonderfully sternly by Jesse Eisenberg. Though we don’t know too much about Josh early on (then again, we don’t much about anyone here), Eisenberg brings out certain layers to this character that’s more than brooding and seeming as if he’s about to lose his freakin’ mind. See, with this character of Josh, we get the idea that this is just another guy, who cares so much for a cause, that he’s willing to go as far, as wide, and as deep as he can, to make that cause a possibility, rather than just something he pisses and moans about at rugged get-togethers. There’s a feeling in this movie that we’re not supposed to really like Josh because of the way in how he goes about making sure his cause actually is heard, but then again, we’re never told to not like him either.

In a way, you can get that feeling that Reichardt herself doesn’t really have the faintest clue of what to think of Josh, other than that he’s just another young guy who, like every other young person out there in the world, believes in something that they hold so near and dear to their heart, that they lose sight of who they actually are. Not just as spokes-persons, but as human beings. That, to me at least, is downright terrifying. Not because of the way it’s presented in this film, but because of how true this really is about certain people out there in this world.

Don't do it, Jessie! You've still got Lex Luthor to portray!

Don’t do it, Jessie! You’ve still got Lex Luthor to portray!

Same can be said for the characters that both Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard play; both aren’t made clear to us early on as to who they are, or why they are, the way they are, but through time and attention, we understand that their goals, though may seem like the same on the surface, aren’t really exactly what either one would want when things really get down to it. Especially for Fanning’s character who, at first, seems like the typical young, wise and brash know-it-all that wants you to show everyone around her how smart she is about the environment and stuff, man, but at the end of the day, is just another little girl who has no clue about how ugly the world can get. I’d explore that same option with Sarsgaard’s character but, considering it’s a character played by Peter Sarsgaard, you could probably already bet that he’s a bit of a sick and twisted dude as is. Which isn’t to say that either performances are bad (Fanning is actually quite good in a role that shows she is in fact GROWING UP IN FRONT OF OUR OWN VERY EYES), but the characters they play make you think and wonder just about who they truly are, when nobody else is around them, staring.

But honestly, now I’m just getting further and further away from the point and avoiding the fact that this movie is fantastic, but not in a very pick-me-up kind of way. Once again, without saying too much, the movie definitely gets quite dark and terrifying at points, but it’s never used in a way to jolt us like so many manipulative thrillers out there do. Instead, Reichardt uses these quietly tense moments to play out what would happen in real life, without all of the glitz, the glamour and the spotlight. And even though I know so many writers and directors out there try to achieve this, Kelly Reichardt really seems to nail that mood.

Which is, yes, pretty weird, especially if you know Reichardt’s filmography. She’s mostly known for these small, naturalistic, and character-driven dramas that can’t necessarily be classified as “thrillers”, but somehow still are, because the tension and the suspense is within the characters interactions between one another. But more so the case here, especially in a scene where one character has to buy fertilizer and I kid you not, had my palms sweating so hard, I needed a towel just to dry them off. And that to me is what really makes this film one of Reichardt’s better pieces: Not only is she showing growth as a writer/director, but she’s also showing the audience that it doesn’t matter how many plot twists you throw around, if you have well-written characters and plot-archs, then you don’t need much else to really excite your audience.

A special note to all you up-and-coming writers out there looking to make a break in the biz, ya’ll.

Consensus: With a naturalistic tone and feel, Night Moves feels like real life, except this time, a whole lot darker and with more questions than answers. Actually, kind of like real life.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"What? We're just eating a PB&J. THAT'S ALL!!"

“What? We’re just eating a PB&J. THAT’S ALL!!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Starred Up (2014)

When in jail, make sure to start as many fights, with as many inmates as possible. Heard that always works right away.

Young, feisty and chock full of piss-and-vinegar Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) heads to the slammer with a bang: Not only does he trash his cell, but even comes close to killing a security-guard. He does this not to just show dominance and that he isn’t afraid of anyone stationed in the various cells around him, but to remind people that he’s not a lad to be messed with. However, due to his constant angry-bursts, he has to cut a deal with the warden to keep himself closer to his father (Ben Mendelsohn) who also is, believe it or not, incarcerated at the same prison and taking on something of a new life, in the vaguest sense I can explain it as. The deal: Frequently go to and behave at a few meetings with the prison counselor (Rupert Friend), while also maintaining to stay out of trouble outside of the sessions as well. Though he’s clearly not going to back down from a fight without throwing a few elbows or two, Eric finds himself actually adjusting to new life in prison quite well, but sometimes, what happens in prison, stays in prison and with the enemies that he’s already made, he may have to look twice behind his back to stay alive and well.

Prison-dramas are usually effective, if only because they’re quite simple to make: One setting, a few characters, and only a few more situations/dilemmas that a certain amount of prison-dramas can actually explore. Though that may make the prison-drama genre as a whole, seem somewhat boring and unoriginal, there still seems to be enough life left in them to where something as small as Starred Up can make a noise, as measly as that may be.

"Stop being such a silly twat!"

“Stop being such a silly twat!”

See, with this movie here, rather than taking itself out of the prison itself and focusing on these characters, how they got to be in the slammer in the first place, and why, underneath it all, they’re tragic characters, the movie just stays pit. We hardly ever leave the prison itself, nor do we ever really get to hear much of a back-story as to why certain characters are where they are in the first place; we just assume that the outside world is there, moving on naturally, and that anybody in this prison, who also happens to be behind bars, did something bad to get them there in the first place.

Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s because it is and yet, somehow, director David Mackenzie is able to dig a bit deeper and make this movie more than just a standard prison-drama; it’s a movie about life, love, the pursuit of happiness and how we all, no matter how troubled our lives may be, want to just make us, as well as the ones we love, happy. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too sappy for a movie which, in the first five minutes, already features the use of the words “cunt” and “fuck” more times than I’ve heard my British grand-mother use (I don’t have one, but you get the drift), but there’s something to be said for a movie that shows itself as being so hard-edged, violent and mean, yet on the inside, beneath the surface and all, is actually quite heartfelt and sweet.

Okay, now I know I’m really losing you, as well as myself, but bear with me here! Please! Because even though this movie definitely battles with some issues and themes that may make the inner-man that all of us have, tighten-up a bit and demand muscle milk, there’s still plenty that most of the usual, testosterone-fueled viewers can enjoy when they decide to take time out of their day and watch a prison drama. Meaning, yes, there’s a lot of blood-shed, knives, fighting, tossing, kicking, hitting, swearing, and all that good stuff we can expect to see from just watching a single episode of Oz.

And it’s all pretty effective; though some of it is gratuitous, that’s sort of the point. Prison is a harsh place and if you can hang around in it, then you’re better off dead (and surely, you will be soon). But like I’ve said before, the movie gets down to the nitty gritty of who these inmates truly are and why most of them stick together, especially when they sure as hell shouldn’t. Most of these inmates are genuinely angry, distasteful people that deserved to be exactly where they are, but some of them, are just troubled and confused individuals that may have made a stupid decision in their life and paying for it as peacefully as they can.

That’s why Eric Love is such an intriguing protagonist to have – he’s a small, rather skinny lad, yet, has so much anger bent deep down inside of him, that when he has time to actually allow for it to vent out onto those around him, we’re absolutely terrified and see why he got himself into this place in the first place. But then, something strange happens, as the movie goes on, we realize that Love is actually the kind of character we expected him to be: Tiny, scared, self-conscious and would much rather use his fists to end an argument, rather than actual words of reasonable wisdom. And though we don’t get too much pretense as to who this guy really is underneath all of the body-tattoos, we know enough by how he reacts to those around him in prison and the various situations he is thrown into.

Somehow, I feel like therapy and prison don't quite together so well.

Somehow, I feel like therapy and prison don’t quite together so well.

Which is to say, that I think it goes without saying, that Jack O’Connell is downright breathtaking in this role here as Eric Love. From the very few seconds we meet him, to where we end, O’Connell seems to be on another planet of “Crazy”. Throughout the flick, O’Connell gets scream, holler, beat his chest, take off his shirt, run, throw fists, choke people out and do all sorts of other bad things, yet, he’s constantly compelling to watch the whole time. We get the feeling that there’s still a heartbroken and upset little boy trapped down inside of him, and rather than write him off as a “dick”, we see him as a character that can, yes, be nurtured and maimed, given the right supervision and guidance in his life.

Which is why it was also a great idea on behalf of the casting-department to go through with giving the role of Love’s daddy to none other than Ben Mendelsohn himself. If you’ve ever seen Mendelsohn in anything before, you’ll know that a role in which he plays a ruthless, tough-love prison-inmate is pretty much perfect, but Mendelsohn even takes that a bit further. See, rather than making his character a tough-as-nails guy in prison trying to teach his son how to survive in the hell-hole that is prison, Mendelsohn gives off a certain level of vulnerability and sweetness that makes you see this man, not just as a father-figure, but a man who is genuinely upset that he never got to be with his son during his formative years. Though he has a hard time of showing it, Mendelsohn’s character is really one who cares and just wants what’s best for his son, even if that means having to take down a couple of inmates in the process.

And that’s why, my friends, prison is not a place you never, ever want to be in. But the film doesn’t end on that corny note; instead, it focuses on the fact that, it doesn’t matter where we are in this world or what sort of situations we are thrown into, it’s never too late to be involved with the ones you love and their lives. Though the film doesn’t openly preach this out to the choir, it’s obvious that it wants to be about what it means to be a human being, and to love, feel, and emote, even when the environment surrounding you tells you to do the exact obvious.

Okay, now that’s very sappy, but so what!??! Prison is harsh, man! We all need a hug every so often!

Consensus: Simple, yet as incredibly detailed as possible, Starred Up may be another harsh, unflinching portrayal of life in prison, but it also doesn’t shy away from getting to the heart of the place, as well the various people who just so happen to be stuck there.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

How I usually look while waiting for the pregnancy test results to get back to me.

How I usually look while waiting to hear of the pregnancy’s test results.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

Stay away from graveyards, people. They’re creepy enough as is.

Former NYC cop Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) used to be a total alcoholic. He’d wake up, go to his local bar, have a coffee, and then down two shots of liquor. However, one fateful day, that all changes and eight years later, he’s regularly attending AA meetings, living alone, eating at diners, and also turning in some work as a non-official private eye. One night he gets an offer and decides to seek it out: Find a group of serial killers that are kidnapping rich drug-dealer’s wives/loved-ones, ransoming money off of them, and yet, still taking the liberty of hacking these women up to little pieces. To them, it’s all fun and games, so when an actual drug-dealer (Dan Stevens) calls on Scudder to do this job for him, he doesn’t back away from it. After all, getting rid of a few serial killers in this world is a job well done, no matter how you do it. But Scudder eventually realizes that this job is going to be a bit more difficult and nerve-wracking than he would have liked, which is why he, whether he likes it or not, gets some assistance from a local homeless kid by the name of TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley).

And yet again, here we are, people, another “Liam Neeson kicks ass” kind of movie where he, yes, is a certain man, with a certain level of skills, takes it upon himself to go about utilizing those skills, shows that he’s a nice guy underneath the sometimes questionable-decisions he makes and, well, of course, tells the villains to, for lack of a better term, “fuck off”. Yes, these are the kinds of movies we can all expect from Liam Neeson right about now and while some can say that they’re bored by this and want him to go back to making Oscar-caliber films with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, or Martin Scorsese, the fact is, nope, Liam ain’t too bothered with any of them.

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin' nuts?!?!

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin’ nuts?!?!

He is, as they say in the biz, striking while the iron is hot and rather than trying something daring to make sure his “arthouse”-ish crowd is pleased with him, Liam is just going to stay and continue to make these typical, run-of-the-mill action-thrillers where he, yes, kicks plenty of ass.

However, that’s not to say any of them are bad and because most of them aren’t, I’m quite happy for Neeson. He’s the type of actor who, with his tall-frame and soft, yet still intimidating Scottish-accent, deserves many movies to be made where he’s, typically, the center of attention. Which is why he seems to be a perfect choice for Matthew Scudder; the type of troubled, somewhat crooked-cop that isn’t the nicest, nor the most moral of guys, but wants to see that he gets the job done, in the most efficient way possible. Meaning, that he wants to ensure no innocent people are killed while he is completing his various shady tasks.

But Scudder isn’t just a well-written character in the way that he’s well-rounded, he’s funny and shows a charming side to his sometimes grim personality that we know Neeson is capable of high-lighting every so often. To say that Neeson is great here, would almost be too obvious for me to even state, but here I am, stating that Neeson is great here and practically carries the movie on his own two, long, lanky shoulders.

That said, the rest of the movie isn’t all that bad, because while Neeson helps it get through some rough patches (whenever the serial-killers pop-up, they’re pretty conventional and spend most of their scenes just being strange, in almost too-serious way to be not kidding), it’s writer/director Scott Frank who really makes this movie work. Something about this flick’s tone, the way it’s so hush-hush most of the time and how it doesn’t seem to glorify it’s over-the-top, grisly violence, yet still shows it in a derogatory light that he makes it seem like more than just “movie violence”, is what really made me think that Frank should make more movies. The dude’s already written my favorite Steven Soderbergh movie (Out of Sight) and actually had a pretty stellar directorial-debut of his own not too long ago (the Lookout), so why wait any longer, Scott? Let’s keep this a train a-goin’, man!

Anyway, like I was saying, Frank’s direction here is really genius and it brings a smile to my face knowing that there are certain film makers out there who still care about giving us genuinely tense, sometimes unpredictable thrillers. Thrillers that, mind you, don’t necessarily rely on how many times a gun is shot, or even how many bones are broken in a particular brawl – much rather, thrillers that take time to not only build the story it is trying to tell, but also give us some context in how we’re supposed to think of these characters as. Not all of these characters are great people here (most of them, drug dealers), but the movie doesn’t simply judge them on who they are, much more than on what it is that they do.

"I'm used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you'll do."

“I’m used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you’ll do.”

For instance, take the character of TJ who, in a lesser-movie, would have been the stereotypical smart-aleck-y, rather adorable kid that Liam Neeson’s character not only stumbles upon by pure chance, but even takes under his wing and make his new sidekick. Add on the fact that TJ is in fact black, and you’ve got yourself a walking, talking, breathing cliché just waiting to ruin your goddamn movie, not to mention your time! But somehow, TJ, nor anything surrounding him, seems to be written that way; he’s a simple orphan kid that is a bit punk-ish, but is still curious enough about how this world Scudder surrounds himself with, not just works, but how he can be apart of it without getting him, or anybody else killed. Not to mention the fact that this young guy, Brian “Astro Bradley, is very good in the role, making you feel sorry that he’s sort of left all by his lonesome, but also happy that he may, or may not, have a future hangin’ around this tall, New Yorker, with an Irish-accent.

I know I’m getting into this a bit more than I maybe should, but there was just a feeling I got with this movie that I haven’t gotten with a thriller in quite some time. Okay, that’s actually a lie, because a little bit of time ago, when I saw the Drop, I felt sort of the same way: A crime-thriller that takes its time to build momentum, as well as character-development. While those movies seem sort of neck-and-neck in my eyes, they’re both clear-as-day examples of what can happen when you take a simple story revolving around thugs, doing thuggish-like things, and make it as detailed as humanly possible, without ever overly-boring the audience, nor giving them enough to where they can expect everything to happen as clearly as they may have predicted it as being straight from seeing the advertisements for it.

So, once again I say this: Scott Frank, continue to make movies. You’ll make me a very happy man and most of all, a very happy movie-goer.

Consensus: With extra-attention paid to the look, feel, and characters that inhabit its slightly unnerving story, A Walk Among the Tombstones is, yet again, another winner for Liam Neeson and his seemingly unfazed streak right now, except a lot smarter and wiser this time around.

8 / 10 = Matinee!! 

"Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see."

“Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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